Crisis Communications: Being Prepared to Be Your Best

An angry customer, a data breach, a wave of negative reviews, misconduct allegations, a major supplier issue – the possibilities for a crisis to happen in today’s world are ever-expanding.

A crisis is typically defined as a significant threat to operations (and reputation) that can have negative short and long-term consequences if not handled properly. While there is no way to fully prepare for the impact of a major incident, brand crisis, or some other significant event, it is imperative that every member of an organization’s team be prepared to lend a hand should one arise.

Crisis communications plans are fundamental to any public-facing organization, and 78% of senior executives say that high-stakes issues planning is important. And yet a surprising number (45%) of them don’t have one. Why is this so?

There are a number of possible reasons that an organization might take pause:

Whatever reasons an organization may have, having a crisis communications plan is a must.

Recently, Wal-Mart found itself at the center of an unwanted ring of attention after two of its U.S. stores were linked to tragic gun violence – the latter affects all of us especially as the alleged shooter lived in Allen for some time. Leading Wal-Mart’s response was CEO Doug McMillan, and you can read more of it in his recent “letter to El Paso.”

Wal-Mart’s response exemplifies having a crisis communications plan a number of ways:

The Three Key Phases of Crisis Communications

If you do need to build a plan, here are some fundamental questions to ask yourself today:

The Bottom Line: While you may not need an exhaustive crisis communications plan for your organization – even a simple one can suffice – making sure that you have all of the groundwork in place in advance will ultimately save you time, money, and your reputation.


Brian Conway is a Chamber member and the Owner of Ascent Public Relations, an agency based in Allen serving D/FW. With more than 14 years of experience, Ascent PR provides services including communications strategy, crisis communications support, content production and paid social, and media relations.