04 Feb 2014

5 Tips to Survive a Crisis

Posted By: 
Public Relations

Five Best Practice Tips for Crisis Management Planning

Crises can hit when you least expect them and how you deal with a crisis will reflect on the organization or business for years to come. Being prepared with a response allows you to be able to focus on to the crisis at hand in an expedient and controlled manner. Here are some tried and true steps in helping you develop your crisis preparedness plan.

1. Develop a Comprehensive Crisis Communications and Management Plan that includes:

Potential Crisis Scenarios

Designate a crisis management team member from each department to come together and brainstorm potential crisis situations. Think of all the things that pose a crisis to your organization that could generate negative publicity. It doesn’t have to be huge – like an explosion. It can be as simple as employee layoffs or theft. Even if there is a slight change it could happen, include it into the plan.

For each scenario, identify:

  • Immediate Action Steps, including communications to external constituents and media where necessary
  • Key Message Points (everyone involved needs to be on the same page and understand the key talking points)
  • A designated Spokesperson. The Spokesperson may or may not be the Crisis Team Leader. It may or may not be the same person for all situations and should be the highest person in the organization who has been media trained. A back-up Spokesperson should also be designated.

2. Create a Cascading Emergency Call Tree

Designate a Crisis Team Manager who knows the organization inside and out. He/she

will be the primary point of contact in a crisis and will immediately activate the Crisis Team. Individuals on the Emergency Call Tree should not have to make more than two calls each so they can begin to focus on the unfolding situation. List all pertinent information for each contact including office, home and cell phone numbers, and email addresses.

3. Steps to Take in the Event of a Crisis

First Steps When a Crisis Occurs:

Call for Help

The fastest way to access the right people is by following all critical paths for notification on the emergency call tree.

  1. Call 911.
  2. Activate the Emergency Call Tree.

Contact the Crisis Management Team Coordinator

When a crisis occurs, the Crisis Management team coordinator acts as the crisis coordinator. This person should keep everyone updated and informed as events continue to unfold. Essentially this person is the key internal communicator.

Get the Facts

It is important to gather the correct information as quickly as possible. This will speed up the process of getting the right help and forming a sound strategy based on facts rather than speculation. Try to confirm information with someone at the location who has the facts.

Ask questions such as:

  • What has occurred and when?
  • Who is involved? (employee, customer, general public)
  • Determine location.
  • Is the media at the crisis scene and/or have they called?
  • If so, what do they want? (Reference: Media Crisis Communications Protocol)

Stay Calm

Keeping cool under fire will set a tone of control and calm which will help when managing people, the media and the crisis in general.


  • Stay calm - move swiftly, don’t panic.
  • Gather the facts.
  • Work cross-functionally and open channels of communication in organization
  • Contact Crisis Team Leader who will communicate to Crisis Management Team.


  • Wait and see if the crisis will go away - it won’t. Get ahead of it. Take a proactive approach.
  • Try to manage a crisis alone.
  • Own the issue before you have to, make sure it really has something to do with your organization.
  • Allow the media to film, photograph, or interview employees or volunteers other than the designated spokesperson.

4. Develop and Follow a Media Crisis Communications Protocol and Identify Designated Spokesperson

In the event of a crisis that could potentially involve the media, these procedures should be followed.

1. Contact the Crisis Team Manager as soon as possible:

2. If a member of the media calls or arrives at the office or on-site, be sure only the appropriate person speaks to the media:

  • Only the appropriate person should respond to a reporter’s questions
  • If the Crisis Team Manager or Designated Spokesperson is not available, find out as much as you can from the reporter including what information he/she is looking for. Get the reporter’s name, phone number and what affiliate they represent (Newspaper, TV station or Radio station). Also ask them what their deadline is.

3. Remind all employees and volunteers not to speak to the media. Ask them to send all inquiries to the designated spokesperson.

5. Responding to Media Inquiries

Ideally, any potential spokespersons should undergo media training to understand techniques in responding to media inquiries and conducting interviews. It is important to be prepared for situations where even seemingly well-intentioned interviews can take a turn, and softball questions turn into hardball accusations.


  • Most importantly: Don’t assume the information the reporter has is correct until you’ve checked the facts internally.
  • Don’t ever speak 'off the record.' Nothing is off the record once it’s been spoken.
  • Don’t say ‘No comment.’ It can imply you have something to hide.
  • Don’t try to speculate or answer questions from the media without getting help first.


  • Stick to the facts.
  • Be friendly.
  • It’s okay to say you don’t know the answer to a question. Explain you will look into it and get back to them as soon as possible.

Important Reminders:

  1. Do not allow the media to film inside your offices or locations if you don’t want them to. If they are on your private property, you have the right to politely ask them to leave.
  2. Do not allow the media to film, photograph, or interview employees other than the designated spokesperson.
  3. Remember, there is no such thing as “off the record” with a reporter.
  1. Don’t assume the information the reporter has is correct until you’ve checked the facts internally.
  1. Never use “no comment” as an answer. Reassure the reporter that an appropriate spokesperson will contact them as soon as possible.
  1. Never release names or ages of any employee or any other person who may be involved in the crisis.
  1. Stick to the facts and what you know. Do not speculate on why something may have happened.
  1. Do not accept blame.
  1. Do not lay blame or exaggerate.
  1. It is okay to say you don’t know the answer to a question. Tell the reporter you will look into it and get back with the answer.