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crisis communication

Crisis Communication Tips: From Panic to Preparedness

Crisis communication is often underestimated because it is not seen as an immediate priority during a crisis.

When a crisis occurs, many people are focused on immediate response and crisis management, and may not consider how their communication strategy will affect the long-term outcome of the crisis.

Additionally, many people underestimate the importance of effective communication in a crisis situation, which can lead to inaccurate or incomplete information being shared with the public or other stakeholders.

Without careful consideration of the importance of communication in a crisis, organizations can be left vulnerable to criticism, misunderstanding, and even legal action.


What is crisis communication?

Crisis communication is a specialized form of communication that is used in emergency situations to provide accurate and timely information to the public, government officials, and other stakeholders. It is a key component of crisis management, and involves communicating with the media, responding to inquiries from the public, and providing accurate and timely information to those affected by the crisis.

Effective communication in a crisis situation is of the utmost importance. It can help to provide accurate and timely information to the public and other stakeholders, as well as help to coordinate a response to the crisis. It can also help to reassure and inform those affected, and help to reduce the impact of the crisis. Additionally, effective communication can help to ensure that decisions are made in a timely and informed manner, and can help to ensure that the crisis is managed in an effective and efficient manner.


Types of crisis situations

Crisis situations can be broadly divided into three main categories: natural disasters, accidents, and terrorism. Each of these situation types can have serious and long-lasting impacts on people and the environment, which is why effective communication is essential in managing them.

In addition to the three main types of crisis situations mentioned above, small organizations may also face other crisis situations, such as:

  • Loss of key personnel due to illness, retirement, or death
  • Financial mismanagement or fraud
  • Cybersecurity breaches
  • Data breaches
  • Workplace violence
  • Employee disputes or misconduct
  • Regulatory violations

Another example was when the Coronavirus pandemic hit. As a school principal, it was my responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of my students and staff. I was happy to know the steps of effectively communicating during a crisis situation.


crisis communication

Biggest mistakes in crisis communication

The 10 biggest mistakes of communicating in crisis situations are:

  • Play Ostrich
  • Only Start Work on a Potential Crisis
  • Situation after It’s Public.
  • Let Your Reputation Speak for You.
  • Treat Traditional or Social Media Like the Enemy.
  • Use Other People’s Forums to Tell Your Story.
  • Use Language Your Audience Doesn’t Understand.
  • Don’t Listen to Your Stakeholders.
  • Assume That Truth Will Triumph over All.
  • Address Only Issues and Ignore Feelings.
  • Be a Technophobe and Don’t Listen to Those Who Are Savvy About Tech or Online Communications.

These are the 10 biggest mistakes according Bernstein Crisis management. You can read about these mistakes on their site, but continue reading here if you’d like some quick tips to prevent them. 


Strategy for Crisis communication

Effective communication is crucial during a crisis. It helps to manage the situation, maintain public trust, and ensure that everyone involved is informed and prepared. There are many theories about crisis communication, but in “normal situations” a plan of three steps will do.

To achieve effective communication, it is important to:
a. establish a dedicated communication team,
b. make sure everyone is informed, and
c. provide clear and accurate information.

By following these steps, organizations can effectively communicate during a crisis and respond to the situation in a coordinated and efficient manner. 

Establish a Communication Team

Establishing a dedicated communication team is an important aspect of effective crisis communication. A communication team can help ensure that your organization’s message is consistent, accurate, and delivered through the appropriate channels. Here are some thoughts about setting up a communication team:

  • Assign roles and responsibilities: Identify the key tasks that need to be performed and assign individuals to take charge of each.
  • Establish clear lines of authority: Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for making decisions and communicating with the public.
  • Provide training: Ensure that the communication team members are trained in crisis communication and understand the importance of their role.
  • Establish protocols: Develop clear protocols for responding to crisis situations, including procedures for gathering information, drafting and issuing statements, and managing media inquiries.
  • Foster collaboration: Encourage communication team members to work together, share information, and provide support to one another.
  • Stay connected: Make sure that the communication team can stay in touch and collaborate even if they are not in the same location.
  • Keep an eye on the big picture: Make sure that the communication team stays focused on the overall goals and objectives of the organization.


Making Sure Everyone Is Informed

Making sure that everyone in your organization is informed during a crisis is crucial for ensuring a coordinated response. Here are some steps to take to ensure everyone is informed:

  • Develop a communication plan: Establish a clear plan for communicating with different stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the general public.
  • Use internal communication channels: Utilize internal communication channels such as email, company intranet, or group chat to keep employees informed of the latest developments.
  • Hold regular briefings: Schedule regular briefings to update employees on the latest developments and to provide them with the information they need to do their jobs effectively.
  • Encourage open communication: Encourage employees to ask questions and provide feedback, so you can address their concerns and provide them with the information they need.
  • Provide clear instructions: Make sure that employees know what is expected of them during the crisis and provide clear instructions for how to proceed.
  • Foster a culture of preparedness: Encourage employees to stay informed and prepared for crisis situations by providing training and resources that can help them respond effectively.
  • Keep employees informed: Continuously provide employees with updated information and let them know what actions are being taken to resolve the crisis.

Provide Clear and Accurate Information

Effective communicating in crisis situations is critical to managing the situation and maintaining public trust. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Be transparent and honest: Share accurate and timely information with the public and be open about what you know and what you don’t know.
  • Use clear and simple language: Avoid using technical jargon and ensure your message is easy to understand.
  • Provide regular updates: Keep the public informed of the latest developments and let them know what actions are being taken.
  • Use multiple channels: Reaching out to the public through various channels such as social media, email, and text messages can help ensure that your message is seen and heard by as many people as possible.
  • Listen to feedback: Engage in two-way communication and listen to the concerns of the public. This can help you address their worries and provide them with the information they need.
  • Stay calm and composed: A calm and professional demeanor can help reassure the public and inspire confidence.
  • Be prepared for tough questions: Anticipate difficult questions and have answers ready to address them.
  • Show empathy: Acknowledge the impact of the crisis on those affected and express concern for their well-being.
  • Work with trusted partners: Partner with trusted organizations and individuals to reach a wider audience and reinforce your message.

How technology can help

Technology can play an important role in helping organizations effectively communicate during a crisis. Here are some ways technology can be utilized:

  • Social Media: Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can be used to quickly and widely disseminate information to the public.
  • Mass Notification Systems: Mass notification systems such as text messaging, email, and voice calls can be used to reach large numbers of people quickly and effectively.
  • Video Conferencing: Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype can be used to hold virtual meetings and briefings, allowing the communication team to stay connected and informed even if they are not in the same location.
  • Collaboration Tools: Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack can be used to share information and work together in real-time, helping to ensure that everyone is on the same page and informed of the latest developments.
  • Analytics and Monitoring Tools: Analytics and monitoring tools can be used to track the spread of information and monitor public sentiment, allowing organizations to adjust their communication strategies as needed.


crisis communication

Final thoughts

When in crisis, it is alright to be an autocratic leader. Sometimes making quick decisions is a must. But in this process, don’t forget to communicate. 

Crisis communication is a critical aspect of effective crisis management, and it is important for organizations to have a well-planned and executed strategy in place. Whether it is a natural disaster, a pandemic, a cyber-attack, or any other crisis situation, effective communication can help organizations respond to the situation, maintain public trust, and minimize the impact of the crisis.

What is a crisis?

It is important to note that crisis communication is not just about responding to large-scale disasters. It is also about preparing for and responding to smaller crisis situations, such as data breaches, product recalls, and other challenges that can impact an organization.

Start small

Organizations can start small by creating a crisis communication plan that outlines their response strategy and includes a detailed itinerary that can be used in different crisis situations. This plan should include clear protocols for communicating with different stakeholders, identifying the members of the communication team, and providing training and resources to help employees respond effectively.

Being prepared

In conclusion, crisis communication is an important aspect of effective crisis management, and organizations should take steps to prepare for and respond to crisis situations in a coordinated and effective manner. By establishing a communication team, making sure everyone is informed, providing clear and accurate information, and utilizing technology, organizations can effectively communicate during a crisis and minimize its impact.


Recommended book:

“Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach” by Kathleen Fearn-Banks is a widely recognized and highly regarded book about crisis communication.

This book provides a comprehensive overview of crisis communication, covering key concepts, strategies, and techniques for responding effectively to a wide range of crisis situations. The author draws on real-life case studies from a variety of industries, including healthcare, government, and corporate, to illustrate the principles of crisis communication and to provide insights into best practices and common pitfalls.

The book covers important topics such as risk and crisis assessment, message development, media relations, social media, and reputation management. It also includes chapters on ethical considerations and post-crisis evaluation, helping readers to understand the full scope of crisis communication and to develop a comprehensive crisis response plan.


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