For more than two decades, I’ve been working with businesses to develop crisis communication plans and to provide counseling during times of trouble. I’ve dealt with situations involving professional athletes, plant layoffs, product recalls, personal injuries, community unrest and more than I care to detail.

A crisis situation can happen at any moment at any organization – big or small. Despite this fact, most businesses are woefully unprepared. That’s why I developed this blog post in hopes to get businesses thinking about “worst case scenarios” and how to address them. A proactive crisis communication strategy will help mitigate potential damage to your brand and reputation.

It’s important to remember that all crisis situations are unique and require flexibility when managing, however, there are universal truths that apply to virtually all situations. Here are eight important things to consider.

  1. Do you have a crisis communication plan in place? If not, address these important questions and be sure to document your responses.
    • Who is on the crisis communication team? Make sure it’s a multi-disciplinary team and includes members from various departments.
    • How will you measure the severity of the crisis? Your response will vary based on the seriousness of the situation?
    • Once the severity level has been established, what is the protocol for communication? Create a step-by-step process documenting things like: Who needs to know? What is the message being communicated? Who is responsible for delivering the message? What platform will be used to deliver the message? How will the response be measured and shared with the crisis communication team?
    • Who is your official spokesperson? Has the individual gone through media training?
    • Do you have a current list of employees, customers, vendors, board members, media, government officials and other key stakeholders on file?
    • What communication platforms do you have at your disposal to disseminate information during a crisis (i.e. press releases, website, email, social media, etc.)? Make sure you have access to these platforms.
    • Develop potential speaking points for various scenarios you may encounter. These speaking points will come in handy when you have limited time to address the situation and respond.
    • What is your process for monitoring the media and social media during a crisis? Make sure your social team is prepared to respond to questions, comments and misinformation.
  2. Once a plan has been developed, test it by running a mock crisis drill within your organization.
  3. When in doubt, communicate. Sitting on negative news can come back to haunt you. Just look at Equifax.
  4. During a crisis, information is constantly evolving. Stick to what you know (even if it’s limited) and be consistent.
  5. If it’s an ongoing situation, update stakeholders frequently.
  6. Show empathy for those who have been negatively impacted.
  7. Communicate your strategy for addressing the situation and the steps you will take to ensure it never happens again.
  8. Once the crisis has passed, conduct an audit to see what went right and what went wrong. Adjust your plan accordingly.

Now it’s your turn. Please share some of your best practices when it comes to crisis communication planning. We hope this blog post can be a forum for sharing ideas.

If you need assistance jumpstarting your crisis communication strategy, feel free to call me at (414) 316-2100, ext. 133 or send me an email at I’m happy to share my experiences and address any questions you may have.