Crisis Communication Planning – A Guide to Dealing with the Media during a Crisis

Author: Tim Herrera

The essence of crisis communication is told by the author based on checklists. He begins his story with a search for a definition of crisis. What types of crises that can affect the organization are we talking about here ? The examples he gives can all be classified as tame crises:

  • Accident / death
  • Crime
  • Natural disaster
  • Employee misconduct
  • Financial problems
  • Protests
  • Product recall

The big advice is to plan ahead of time in case a crisis strikes. You do that by:

  • Make emergency plans in advance
  • Create a crisis management team
  • Create a strategic communication plan
  • Appoint a spokesperson
  • Create key messages
  • Determine the best communication channels
  • Never to talk about things you don’t know about
  • Be honest and open
  • Learn to relax
  • Determine the stakeholders and accept the interested parties
  • Draw up a response checklist
  • Determine what the media can ask for during a crisis
  • Determine a crisis meeting agenda in advance
  • Determine if you will need outside help.

It is important in the work of the incident management team that it is complementary to the operation of the media response plan. It is best to have a group of managers / volunteers who can be called together quickly. The spokesperson can then work with them to disseminate the information where necessary.

Questions to answer when drawing up the strategic communication plan are:

  • What’s the issue about?
  • What’s the solution?
  • Who can help create change?
  • Who should be mobilized?

These questions are regardless of whether you work in the short or long term, the answers will determine what it will be.

When you get these questions right, answer in a single sentence “what this is all about”. What do you want people to remember from how you handle this crisis? Stay with the core of that message and go further on from there.

Also identify the “rulers” in the community: they could be students, political leaders, legislators, business people, parents… and keep them in mind when creating the message. This does not only apply in times of crisis.

What should not be forgotten at the end, but neither during the handling of the crisis and the crisis communication is an evaluation : how you will determine whether the plan worked out or not. Whether the plan was successful. This indicates opportunities to adjust the plan but also to adjust the business.

And another important fact: during a crisis, continuing to respond and communicate is of vital importance.

The immediate duties of the spokesperson and the crisis communication team are:

  1. First alarm
  2. Gather the facts
  3. Verify the information and keep the information up to date
  4. Prepare the media (calls and visits)
  5. Get ready to receive reporters.
  6. Follow-up of the media and current relations

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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