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5 tips for crisis communications

By Natalie Bannon

Whether a crisis strikes without warning or there's a simmering situation that gradually gets out of hand, you want to be prepared when your reputation is on the line. Here are 5 tips to prepare for and manage a crisis effectively.

1. Be prepared.
Before anything happens, you need a plan. Once a crisis strikes, you won't have time to start from scratch. A written plan will save you precious time and added stress in the event of a crisis. Think ahead. What are possible scenarios that could happen? Detail written media procedures. Make a list of people in your organization you will need on the crisis team. Be sure you have contact info where they can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Pre-determining a plan ensures good decisions can be made quickly. And that leads us to number two...

2. Time is of the essence.
The media will cover the story with or without your help. Ignoring the situation or taking too long to respond can result in a loss of control of the story. In a crisis, the clock is always ticking. Remember that reporters are on deadline. A delayed response could mean a missed opportunity to get your message across.

3. Perception is reality.
Assess the situation from the public's point of view. If you weren't on the inside, what would you think? In a crisis, people want to know what happened, how you are responding and how you will prevent it from happening again. Your actions and words should demonstrate caring and concern for victims and a commitment to doing the right thing. If you communicate with people on the front end of a situation, they will respond more positively.

4. Think before you speak.
Before the interview, you need to develop your message. Know what you want to communicate. Even if you don't have all the facts about the situation, you still need to respond. It's okay to keep statements short and simple or to say that you're working on gathering all of the facts. If you wait until you have all of the answers, you'll likely have waited too long. Don't guess or make assumptions. You'll just create more of a problem if you give the media inaccurate or unclear info.

5. Choose the spokesperson carefully.
Your spokesperson is the "face" or your church. In a crisis, it's particularly important to have the right messenger. Choose someone who conveys care, credibility and confidence. Crisis communications training can help you develop the ability to effectively connect with the audience, manage your message, handle difficult questions and avoid potential interview pitfalls.

And those are your 5 tips for crisis communications. Stay ahead of the curve. For more information about in-depth training, visit our website at and for more quick tips go to