May 4, 2017


Guest column by Samira Obeid

In the digital age, “going viral” is generally a positive thing. But what do you do when going viral turns into a virus on your brand? 

Because bad news moves instantly, it’s critical to act quickly with a smart, strategic approach. The difference can mean a one-day story instead of a months-long nightmare.

Generally, crisis management is categorized into three chronological steps.


Before the Crisis

You’ll be more successful during and after a crisis if you invest time to prepare before a crisis happens. In our industry, best practices suggest that you: 

  1. Anticipate and prepare for crises
  2. Identify and empower your crises communication team
  3. Identify and train spokespeople
  4. Establish notification and monitoring practices
  5. Identify and prioritize stakeholders
  6. Develop holding statements, which can be easily customized depending on the situation
  7. Practice!

Anticipating and preparing for a crisis is very dependent on your business. Think through various scenarios, and plan how you would respond.  

Include your crisis communication team when planning a crisis response. This team is generally kept small to maintain efficiency. Members generally include a chairperson, spokesperson, social media monitor and/or writer, an HR representative and a legal representative. 

Make it easy for your team to access the crisis response plan by creating a digital version, provided on thumb drives or a protected network. Wallet cards printed with key messages and contact information also can be useful tools. 

During a crisis

When you’re faced with a crisis, assess the situation and be prepared to recommend actions. Assemble your crisis communication team and clearly assign roles and actions.

With input from your crisis team and company leaders, finalize the key messages. Build your messages around the framework of compassion (express concern for injuries, damages, etc.), action (what you’re doing in response) and context.

Your company brand and reputation will fare better if you take genuine, authentic actions that align with your values and culture. People will remember when you do the right thing—and when you don’t.

After a crisis

In the hours and days after the immediate crisis has passed, monitor media coverage across all channels. Share updates via social media and respond to reporters’ inquiries. Update your key messages and rely on them so you can provide consistent information with all your audiences.

Within a month after the crisis, gather your crisis communication team and review the response. What went well? What should be changed so you can respond more successfully in the future?