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Mobilising Crisis Communication

To begin, what is Crisis Communication? According to Wikipedia, it is a sub-speciality of the public relations profession that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organisation facing a public challenge to its reputation.

In simpler terms, you could say that crisis communication is reversing reputational damage. A crisis can, and will, in most cases, hurt a brand’s image. Brand recognition and identity are two of the most valuable assets of an organisation. The main purpose of a crisis communication plan or team is to protect the brand and maintain the organisation’s standing and perception within the industry.

One of the best examples — from a political perspective — of crisis communication is Obamacare. The former United States President Barack Obama attempted to create America’s version of the National Health Service with the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), or better known as Obamacare. When the website was launched, it had a lot of problems and weakened confidence in this new act. Obama’s PR team sashayed in and got him to do a faux interview with comedic actor Zac Galifianakis in which he openly admitted to the initial problems, made it a fun interview, and assured people that the AHA would work for everyone. It reached a brand-new demographic and the website received a 40% increase in traffic with the turn-around crisis communication tactic.

Here are the methods to tackle the different phases of crisis communication:

Identifying your crisis team

  1. Sometimes, organisations can anticipate crises more often than they cannot. The first thing to do is to identify an internal crisis team that will play an integral part in the entire communication process with the external PR agency.

Your spokesperson(s)

Those who face the media post-crisis will form the backbone of the entire communication exercise. They need to be trained and effectively chosen to communicate the good, bad, and ugly in the right manner.


With the digital age, it has become easier to monitor the news. All systems should be up when it comes to media monitoring and social listening.

Updating your stakeholders

Stakeholders are extremely important for an organisation. Having a crisis builds anxiety and diminishes faith in the value of the organisation. Ensure that stakeholders are informed and consistently updated on a crisis and the communication around it.

Holding statements/key messages

A ready statement saves time, is uniform to everyone who must respond to a question on a crisis, and creates a sense of control. This statement may not always work, but having multiple versions tackling potential questions should be on the agenda.

Nasreen Syed is Senior Account Executive at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |