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  • Amy Numbers

What are the 5 W's of crisis management?

A crisis communication plan is going to be your guidebook through all of the stages of crisis management. When considering elements to include in a crisis communication plan, consider the 5 W’s:

  • WHO:

    • Who are the different audiences that will need to be alerted?

    • Who is on your crisis management team?

    • Who will speak for the organization and/or relay messages?

  • WHAT:

    • What happened? What needs to happen now? Stick to facts.

    • What can be done to either ensure this doesn’t happen again or what can be done to create a different outcome next time?

  • WHEN:

    • Consider your timeline going forward: When will you release new information? What needs to happen a week, a month, a year, etc. after the crisis?

  • WHERE:

    • Where will you release new information? Consider various platforms you may already use such as your website, social media and email.

  • WHY:

    • Focus on key messages, and remember, it’s okay to not have all the answers or not know how to answer those WHY questions your audience may have. You can (and should) respond before you do.

What is an effective crisis management plan?

An effective crisis management plan will address potential crisis scenarios at the various stages of crisis with detailed thought, ready to be referenced when the time comes. It’s time to build (or fine-tune) your plan. Completing the following steps will help ensure you are ready for any crisis. They include:

  • Creating a crisis response team with representation from leadership, HR, communications, IT and potentially impacted departments or channels—and assigning roles to each team member.

  • Considering all possible crisis scenarios, their potential impact (i.e., local, national, etc.), who should be notified, etc.

  • Identifying subject matter experts, dependent on the crisis scenario, to be spokespersons—and getting them media trained.

  • Creating template fact sheets, key messages, Q & As, and communications for internal and external audiences (including media) that can be quickly modified for any crisis.

  • Conducting mock crisis exercises with your team, ideally at least twice a year. Running through different examples of crises and your accompanying crisis management strategies for each situation will improve your crisis management skills before a crisis ever hits.

If a crisis hits tomorrow, is your organization ready? AOE is ready to work with you to build the optimal crisis communications plan—no matter what the crisis. For more information, reach out to us today and be sure to visit AOE’s Crisis Communications page.


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