Crisis Communications

‘Before anything else, preparation is the key to success’ Alexander Graham Bell


While it’s unlikely that Alexander Graham Bell was thinking of crisis communications when he uttered his famous phrase, given he had over 550 court challenges in his bid to claim the first telephone prototype, it’s certainly something he would have found useful.


One of the many lessons 2020 taught us is that a crisis can happen anytime and usually where you’re least expecting it.  The companies that most successfully weather the storm are those who have a clear and well-prepared crisis communications plan in place way before it is needed.  No matter what form the situation takes, from issues with employee dissatisfaction or workplace accidents, to a dramatic downturn in income or product recalls, it’s essential to be proactive and carefully manage the communication and messages that are issued in the aftermath.


Here are three important elements to consider as your crisis emerges:


  1. Who needs to know – and how quickly can you brief them?


When a crisis hits, you need a predefined group to be made aware of the situation at the earliest possible moment.  This group is usually made up of members of the senior management team, HR and media relations and if needed legal and other consultants.  One tried and tested method is to employ the old-fashioned phone tree to get everyone up to speed quickly – never rely on emails to carry time critical messages.


  1. Who is talking to the outside world – and have they received the right training?


One of the most difficult areas to control, especially in highly charged emotional situations, is access of information to the outside world.  Every single person who may answer an external call in your organisation needs to have clear instructions about how to respond to requests for information.  It’s not unheard of for journalists to call and simply chat to front of house staff without announcing who they are, this can lead to unhelpful and incorrect information being shared, so you need staff to know there is just one point of contact for all queries to be sent to.


  1. Are you ready to talk – do you have all the facts?


One of the most common phrases you read in reports after a major incident is ‘so and so declined to comment’.  While this is sometimes portrayed by media as a negative statement, in fact it is often the best way to handle an emerging crisis.  Firstly, you never want to comment before you know all the facts of a case, secondly you may have a situation with police or health and safety executive involvement, in which case you are legally bound not to comment and thirdly never ever be rushed into meeting someone else’s deadline if you’re not ready to.


Above all else remember that a proactive approach with clear guidelines will prove invaluable in the midst of a crisis, particularly when time is short, and tensions are running high.  As well as protecting the business from further damage inflicted by negative commentary, the correct crisis communications protocols will ensure you are perceived to be managing the issue in a positive and responsible way. Something that will help keep stakeholders onside in the long run.


If you’d like to find out more about how Torque can help your business build or upgrade your crisis communications plan, get in touch at