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  • Writer's pictureLaura Merritt

What are the main areas of crisis communication?

What are the six steps of the crisis communication process?

The importance of crisis communication is just as prevalent pre-crisis as it is during the crisis and post-crisis. We have crisis communication strategies for every step of the way:

Pre-crisis (Ideally, you will develop a crisis communication plan while not in a time of crisis)

  1. Monitor crisis risks: “What could go wrong here?” Unfortunately, no organization is immune to the threat of a crisis. Consider potential internal issues (personnel issues, layoffs, office closings, on-the-job accidents) and external issues (natural disasters and weather issues, a pandemic, etc.).

  2. Make decisions about how to handle potential risk: Reach a consensus on your approach, areas of concern, what constitutes a crisis and what the appropriate response is.

  3. Train people who will be involved: Assemble a team and have a kick-off meeting. Select the members of your Crisis Communications Team, define their roles and areas of responsibility, and assemble their contact information.


  1. Collect and process information for crisis team decision-making: The first step of issues management is the analysis of the issues after they have become crises.

  2. Create and disseminate crisis messages: Assemble key messages in a crisis communication plan and determine how to respond in the event of a crisis. Review how to deal with the media. Discuss how to involve employees and make them aware of corporate policy with regard to speaking with the media in a crisis.


  1. Assess the crisis management effort: What went well? What did not? What did you learn from this event? What would you do differently next time?

What elements should all crisis management plans include?

When considering elements to include in a crisis management plan, consider the 5 W’s:

  • WHO:

    • Who are the different audiences that will need to be alerted?

    • Who is on your crisis management team?

    • Who will speak for the organization and/or relay messages?

  • WHAT:

    • What happened? What needs to happen now? Stick to facts.

    • What can be done to either ensure this doesn’t happen again or what can be done to create a different outcome next time?

  • WHEN:

    • Consider your timeline going forward: When will you release new information? What needs to happen a week, a month, a year, etc. after the crisis?

  • WHERE:

    • Where will you release new information? Consider various platforms you may already use such as your website, social media and email.

  • WHY:

    • Focus on key messages, and remember, it’s okay to not have all the answers or not know how to answer those WHY questions your audience may have. You can (and should) respond before you do.

The objective of a crisis communication plan is to provide your organization with a guidebook for dealing with a high-stakes situation. The benefit of proactively creating a crisis plan is that when (not if!) a crisis hits, you will be able to act efficiently and intentionally. It’s time to build (or fine-tune) your plan.

What are the principles of crisis management?

Your main crisis communication objectives are to be prepared, truthful, empathetic and efficient. Completing the following steps will help ensure you are ready for any crisis. Here are a few best practices for crisis communication:

  • 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. Your external communication during a crisis will impact the public’s perception of your organization.

  • 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.

For more on navigating a crisis, visit AOE’s Crisis Communications Microsite.


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