• Laura Merritt

Crisis Communications in Uncertain Times


We are living in a time of uncertainty with crises seeming to occur almost daily. From a pandemic and extreme weather occurrences to cyberattacks and more, the inevitability that a crisis will affect your organization is more likely than ever before. In addition, today’s crises are very different than those even a few years ago. They escalate faster, likely have a broader impact and elicit more extreme reactions and demands for real and immediate action.


Now, more than ever, the implications of being unprepared for a crisis can have a devastating effect on your organization. It’s never been more important to have a crisis communications plan in place. If you don’t already have one, now is the time to get started. Your first task is to evaluate your organization’s readiness. How prepared are you if a crisis hits your organization tomorrow? Do you have an employee notification system in place? Who will speak for your organization in media interviews during the crisis?


Building your crisis plan

Once you have considered your current readiness, it’s time to build (or fine-tune) your plan. Completing the following steps will help ensure you are ready for any crisis. They include:

  • Creating a crisis response team with representation from leadership, HR, communications, IT and potentially impacted departments or channels—and assigning roles to each team member.

  • Considering all potential crisis scenarios, their potential impact (i.e., local, national, etc.), who should be notified, etc.

  • Identifying subject matter experts, dependent on the crisis scenario, to be spokespersons—and getting them media trained.

  • Creating template fact sheets, key messages, Q & As, and communications for internal and external audiences (including media) that can be quickly modified for any crisis.

  • Conducting mock crisis exercises with your team, ideally at least twice a year.

AOE has deep expertise in developing crisis plans and will work with you to help build the optimal communications for your employees, clients, customers and other interested parties—no matter what the crisis. For more information, reach out to us today and be sure to visit AOE’s Crisis Communications Microsite.


When a crisis arises, institutions that are resilient and agile are much more likely to weather a crisis. A resilient organization has a solid foundation, thinks in the long term and can adapt. An agile organization is flexible and able to respond quickly to a rapidly changing situation. We will address in more detail what to do when a crisis occurs in part two of this series.