Is your company prepared to handle this situation?

Jun 19, 2019

How to handle a crisis communications situation.

Three Tips to Make Sure a Crisis Doesn't Destroy Your Company's Reputation

One of our team’s favorite quotes is from the wise Warren Buffet, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."

Having worked with clients across a variety of industries including healthcare, the nonprofit sector, government, large outdoor festivals and events,  and legal services, we know how much our clients value maintaining a positive public image. But how exactly do you do this when faced with a crisis or adverse situation? (If you’re curious about what a PR crisis is, catch up  with this post.)

1. Prepare

The most important step you can take to  preserve your company’s reputation is preparation. Unfortunately, once a situation begins unfolding, if you’re not properly prepared you’ll lose valuable time trying to manage the situation on the fly.  If you have a crisis communications plan already in place you can rapidly begin the process of gathering information, composing a statement and disseminating information to stakeholders, allowing you to better stay on top of and control the situation.

So what should you be doing now to set yourself up for success if a crisis ever strikes? A solid crisis communications plan will include the following items.

A core team and stakeholder contact tree

Identify the chain of command for when a crisis strikes and make sure you have updated  contact information for all crisis team members.. Doing so helps ensure that everyone central to the situation  is alerted in a timely manner. Create a list of stakeholders including employees, board members, vendors, regulatory agencies, law enforcement, first responders, legal counsel, insurance agent, sponsors, members of the media and other groups that might be impacted by a crisis at your organization. The list should include their contact information and the crisis team member responsible for contacting that particular stakeholder.

A list of all relevant usernames and passwords

When a crisis hits, social media can be a great way to quickly share updates with the general public as needed. However, far too often login information is controlled by one or two people in the marketing department. If you cannot reach these individuals quickly to gain access to the platforms, how will you share information? Additionally, during a time of crisis it is important to cancel all scheduled social media posts. No one wants to see happy messages during a negative event, making it imperative that you can access all social media channels and content management systems used to schedule messages. Create a secure document with social media logins and make sure all members of your crisis communications team have access.

An outline of protocol and key messages for potential scenarios

You’ll never be able to fully predict when a crisis will strike or what it will be. However, for most organizations you can create a list of likely potential crises in advance. This may include things like a facilities failure, active shooter or other violent situation, data breach or event accident. After creating a list of potential issues, draft a list of steps to be taken should each situation occur, starting with contacting 911 as necessary. We also recommend drafting a statement containing key messages for each possible scenario that can be updated to reflect incident specific details, should a crisis occur. By drafting an outline of a statement in advance you’ll be able to issue a response sooner and ensure you cover all key points.

2. Practice

Once you’ve created a draft of a crisis communications plan, you should just let it sit in a drawer until you need it, right? Absolutely not! After preparing your crisis plan, it is very important to periodically  review, update and practice it. Yes, the plan should be comprehensive enough that you can pick it up at any moment and know where to begin addressing a crisis. However, the old adage, “practice makes perfect” holds true here. Walking through the plan, role playing mock crisis scenarios, answering any questions that arise and addressing any gaps will ensure that in the event of a real crisis your team knows exactly what to do. Follow the plan step by step and your team should  operate as a well oiled machine.

3. Perform

After preparing your crisis plan and practicing it with your leadership team you’re ready to execute it if a crisis should arise. We recommend keeping several printed copies of your plan on hand at your office and home for easy access. Having a printed copy is also a great safeguard in case your servers go down and you are unable to access your digital copy during a crisis.

When handling a crisis be sure to stay calm and follow your plan. You’ve put in the hard work preparing for this moment and while a crisis situation is never fun, you can rest assured that you are prepared with the tools to handle the situation.

If your healthcare, nonprofit, law firm or event organization does not have a crisis communications plan in place, we are here to help. Reach out to us and we can set up a time to chat with you about our crisis communications planning and management services.

Caty Carrico


Caty Carrico is an award-winning social media strategist and public relations practitioner at Pushkin Public Relations, a Denver-based PR firm. Her expertise lies in helping brands identify their distinct social media persona and crafting communications strategies that engage target audiences. In her spare time, she can be found eating her way through Denver's restaurant scene or working on her latest DIY project.

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