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Racing Against the Clock: First Crisis Communication Steps Are Crucial

by Debbie Anglin - Jan. 22, 2024

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During a crisis, speed is everything. Once information about an incident is leaked, the clock is no longer your friend with our 24/7 news cycle. If the crisis is mentioned on social media, you should anticipate a reporter, customer, partner or investor calling with questions within minutes, making it easy to get behind the curve.

Companies typically wait to get their messaging out because they want to get it right, and in the first minutes or hours after a crisis, they rarely have all the facts. Moving forward with messaging, even before you have all the information at hand, is critical. The chart below shows how quickly issues escalate, and companies that delay will see others take control of the narrative.

How do you develop a crisis communication response quickly?

  1. As a leadership team, instead of asking “What do we say?” ask yourself other key questions: “What’s the right thing to do?” and “What would reasonable people expect an organization to do?” These two questions allow you to look at your situation from an outsider’s lens.

  2. Develop statements using the Anglin PR Hierarchy of Concern: people, animals/livestock/wildlife, environment, property and livelihood. This means if any person has been harmed, almost harmed, threatened or worse, their welfare is your first message.

  3. Acknowledge your role. Even if the facts are still being gathered, your organization is “investigating…..”, “cooperating with authorities….”, “enacting emergency safety measures…” until you know the extent of the threat and its causes. Don’t try to quantify the impact or minimize the crisis with words such as “only a handful of people are affected,” “contained to a small area” or “less than $125,000 in damage.”

  4. Nerves and stakes are high, so don’t forget to allow your emotions to show. Your voice and facial expressions communicate as much as your words. The single biggest predictor of reputational harm during a crisis is the perception by stakeholders that a company and its leaders don’t care. 

  5. Pull up your mission statement. Your organization’s mission is a counterbalance to the crisis; in fact, it can even be used as a compass to help navigate it.

Having a relationship with a crisis PR firm will help you respond quickly during a difficult situation and save valuable time and reputation. If you’re interested in discussing ways to mitigate or respond to potential crisis scenarios, Anglin PR provides planning and advice. Contact us at or call us at (405) 840-4222

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