The Importance of Having a Crisis Communications Plan


When a company is doing well, it’s hard to think that a crisis could occur, yet we’ve seen small to large successful companies experience crisis-mode, time and time again – from the Samsung Galaxy recall, to BP’s oil spill, the United Airlines’ passenger removal conflict, the Target hacking scandal, and many more. Even the most lucrative companies face trouble. With all of this in mind, we’re sharing some tips to help kickstart the process for creating a crisis communications plan. Here are some ideas to consider.

Outline example scenarios

While it’s impossible to predict everything that could occur (like COVID-19, for example), a good place to start is by outlining some example scenarios that similar companies have faced. This will help ground you in knowing what your crisis communications plan is going to need, who is going to be involved, and what the right steps are to take. Some example scenarios to help stir your thought process include:

  • Employee slander against the company
  • Employee injury on the job
  • Faulty products or product issues
  • Financial turmoil

You’re not going to hit the nail on the head by delineating potential scenarios, because it’s truly impossible to predict exactly what will happen until it does, but it will get you in the appropriate headspace to start drafting a reactive plan outline.

Identify responsibility holders

The stakeholders involved in a crisis communications plan are your pinch hitters. The people you choose should exhibit grace under pressure – be calm, cool, and collected and able to follow direction. A lot of companies start with hierarchal thinking and engage the company’s leadership right away, but it’s important to also think about those who exemplify the core values of your organization and who can appropriately articulate those values. That type of person could come from any department or level – food for thought.

Know your facts and write them down

Have you ever heard the term “the devil is in the details”? When a company is being scrutinized, this sentiment is even more true. It’s incredibly important to have your facts down pat before going public with a response to the crisis. To ensure everyone is aligned on what the messaging is, start with the basics – review your brand and key messages, revisit your image, and carve out the important details that make your company unique and special. After you do that, analyze what the crisis is (or could be) and craft a response that’s reflective of your brand values, but still addresses the issue at hand. The easiest way to do this is to create a message matrix and brainstorm a list of questions that could be posed as a retort to your messages. This is a great time to play the “what if” game and think about all the possible responses that may come your way.

At the end of the day, you want everyone in your organization on the same page, with the same facts, at the same time.

Don’t place blame. In fact, forget blame altogether.

Issuing blame toward a particular person is a natural, human response to a crisis. However, it won’t do you much good and could end up tainting your reputation further. Quite possibly the most important part of a scandal or crisis is to do everything you can to move on quickly and appropriately. It’s nearly certain that dwelling on who did what and why won’t get you the desired result. Plain and simple: don’t place blame.

No matter what the scenario is, at the end of the day, it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Get your team together and start to devise a plan today so you can get ready for whatever may come your way tomorrow. And remember, ask a public relations professional for help – this is what they’re trained to do!

About Ethos

Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside of Maine.

At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference for each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.

With Ethos, you get more than a marketing agency. You get a long-term partner whose goals are your goals.

Learn more about the Ethos approach and the work we’ve done for our clients. Want to have a conversation about your brand’s core truth? Contact us!

Written By

The ETHOS Team