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  • Amy Numbers

What is a crisis communication specialist?

What is crisis management?

Crisis management is the process an organization goes through in an emergency situation. Navigating a crisis is something all organizations should prepare for in terms of organizational and communications plans.

What does it mean to be crisis ready? ​

  • Elevate readiness for true resilience ​

  • Need the right mindset, skills and capabilities.

  • It goes beyond the plan – it is the ability for the team to come together

The importance of crisis management in public relations lies in the efforts of crisis communications; it’s not only about what you are doing, but how you are choosing to communicate those plans. Crisis communications in public relations could look like responding to comments on social media, crafting an e-blast to go out to clients, preparing a statement for a press conference, revising the employee handbook to include updated procedures and expectations … any kind of communication that is needed after a crisis occurs.

What is a crisis communication specialist?

A crisis communication specialist is a dedicated team member who will manage all documentation and communications relating to a crisis, ensuring continuity across platforms and providing follow-ups to inquiries. This person will also provide problem-solving support by directing interested parties to members of your crisis communication team who can assist them with specific needs.

Whether you outsource a crisis communication specialist or identify someone in-house, this role is essential to supporting your crisis communication team.

The importance of crisis communication support is apparent in how well your crisis team operates. Let’s talk building a dream crisis communications team.

What skills are required for crisis management?

Possible crisis management skills can include:

  • Organization: Crises can be chaotic. You will want a crisis team who will follow a plan.

  • Thoughtfulness/Being well-spoken: Crisis communication is all about conveying to your various audiences the actions that are being taken - words need to be carefully chosen to accurately represent this!

  • Honesty/Reliability: Being truthful is being trustworthy.

  • Multi-tasking: With lots of moving parts, you’ll need people who don’t mind wearing a few different hats during a crisis.

  • Empathy: Crises often have victims, and the way you communicate to and about the involved parties should be sensitive.

  • Action-oriented: Response time is important, and you’ll likely have several platforms to post on. Having a dedicated team (or better yet, a person whose job is crisis-focused like a crisis manager) will ensure that people are able to respond in a timely manner.

Got any of your teammates in mind? Here’s a look at what those organized, well-spoken, reliable folks will be working on.

Crisis management team roles and responsibilities: ​

  • Taking effective action in a crisis. ​

  • Planning both operating and communication response strategies and programs in anticipation of future crises​.

  • Ensuring the flow of reliable information between all staff, management and volunteers. ​

Where should you pull these people from? Your crisis team should include a diverse group of employees, including:​

  • Leadership representation​

  • Senior communications staff​

  • Senior human resources representatives​

  • Financial representation​

  • Department heads​

Legal representation​

Choose your spokesperson/people​

  • When choosing a spokesperson for the company, consider:​

  • Who is the official voice/face of the company?​

  • Who in the company/association has previously spoken with the media?​

  • Are they media trained? If not, they’ll need to be.​

  • Are they an expert on any particular topic?​

A note on spokespeople: Don’t just assume your president/CEO/Executive Director should be your spokesperson.​ You may need someone on a lower level than him or her to come in if a correction or clarification is needed. Often, having the highest official be the one to show compassion is the right answer, as it can be confusing if they are also the one sharing the nitty-gritty operational details.​

You’ve got your team. What’s next? Here are a few items for your agenda:

  • Make sure everyone is familiar with the company’s values, mission statement, etc.​

  • Consider who will craft the crisis messaging. ​

  • Collaboration between the spokesperson, senior communications team, and leadership​

Consider assets that will need to be created, i.e., spokesperson statements, press conferences, press releases, internal staff communications and social media posts​.

  • Have some sort of media monitoring in place.​

Looking for next steps? Let’s talk. AOE has decades of experience helping organizations plan for the “what if” scenarios and creating a culture that ensure successful operations and communication during a crisis, which mitigates risk and brand exposure. From crisis strategic planning and issues audits, to media training and more, AOE is the trusted and proven resource – no matter the issue. We have deep expertise in developing crisis plans and will work with your organization to help you build optimal communications for your employees, customers and other involved parties.


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