Crisis Communications Preparation

You can’t control everything.

Communication systems are never in equilibrium. They are chaotic and inherently unstable. Literally billions of us live in one small world, densely packed and intercommunicating. Our world is moving and changing, creating perceptions out of reality.

Control is not an option.

During the last five years, our team has gotten calls from media investigating stories about infectious disease outbreaks, social media gaffes, puppy mills, cockroaches and aliens. YEP.


In today’s media world, a good portion of newsroom decisions about coverage for that day are based on what people are saying on social media. What are viewers talking about on Facebook or sharing on twitter? What are the trending topics for that day?

If people are talking, chances are a reporter is going to get to the bottom of it, no matter what.

If this chatter is about your company and its negative, what do you do? Lock the doors and quit answering the phones? Absolutely not. Another benefit (or drawback, depending on your viewpoint) of social media is that so many people are now directly connected, it has become much easier for reporters to find a source willing to talk about the issue with a simple search.

So, if your company is suddenly in the news and you’re not sure what to do, here are five best practices that will help nearly anyone out of hot water:

  1. Be Proactive. Build relationships with key media EARLY. Be the go-to resource in your community or industry and work with them on positive stories all year-round.This will help ensure that if something happens, you already are on good terms with those contacts, they already have a positive viewpoint about your business. Furthermore, they know who to call to get in touch with your company.
  2. Be Prepared.Work with your communication staff or PR agency in advance of any potential issue to make sure you have a plan when the inevitable happens. Burch Partners has among the most regarded pre-crisis modules in the business to guide our clients BEFORE a crisis happens. Because the best way to manage a crisis is to ensure one never happens. In addition to a comprehensive written plan, our module features media coaching for key team members as well as customized flowcharts to triage traditional and social media situations.
  3. Be responsive.Respond with all of the information you know, at the time you know it. Timing and transparency are vital. Provide all the information you can, without jeopardizing your staff or company.
  4. Never say no comment, never shut the door.This makes you look guilty, no matter what. If reporters come looking for aliens (yes, seriously, aliens) and have reason to believe that you're a source, remember your training and talk them through it. Separately, don’t try to talk to a reporter “off the record.” There are very few cases where that info will actually stay private.
  5. Use social media to your advantage. Social mediachannels are owned by your company. Don’t rely on the traditional media to get your message out for you. Do it yourself. If you need to respond to something, one way to get your statement or stance on an issue out to the public is to post info and resources on your “owned” channels.

Preparation is essential to enabling an organization to effectively communicate with stakeholders during a disruptive incident. It is not enough for you to "send a statement," you have to manage the flow of information and ensure that the best, most accurate information is published and aligned with the public, your customers, investors and stakeholders.

These are just the starting points for organizations to effectively manage the information landscape. How effectively an organization can handle this balancing act has a direct impact on its reputation and overall survivability.

Contact us if you would like to discuss developing or updating crisis communication strategies in your organization.

Or if your neighbors think aliens have landed on your property (it happens).