Crisis Communications – How to Ensure You Capture Meaningful Data to Inform Your Crisis Response


Here are some tips and tools to help you measure your crisis comms efforts and use data to drive important decisions.

Ted Kitterman, Ragan Communications

When a crisis hits, and you don’t have a measurement strategy in place, you’re going to have a hard time capturing accurate, actionable information.

The problem isn’t that the data is hard to come by, explains Nicole Moreo, senior vice president of analytics for Ketchum and chair of the North American chapter of AMEC. Data is everywhere—but knowing which data to pay attention to requires expertise and a bit of forethought.

And the chances are good that your organization hasn’t done its homework on preparing ahead of the next crisis. “Only 30% of marketers and PR pros conduct a threat assessment for their brands once a year,” Moreo says—and failing to regularly update your planning, benchmarks and more will give you an incomplete picture when you try to measure an acute event.

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Crisis Communications: In Modern Reputation Management, Brand Journalism is an Essential Tool

How to help establish your story and brand position in today’s media landscape—a crucial preventative measure for brands to avoid crises and fight misinformation.

Ted Kitterman

As a crisis communications advisor, Mindy Hamlin is often called in once the fire has started. Someone has taken to social media, or is threatening public action that could jeopardize how an organization is perceived in the community.

Real money is on the line, and many organizations say they now place reputation and trust at the center of major business decisions—even before considerations of profit and revenue. In a report from Signal AI, over 85% of business leaders and decision makers say that reputation is a higher priority than margin when making decisions.

Yet, if preventative measures aren’t taken, crisis mitigation efforts can be too little, too late.

Hamlin, principal with Hamlin Communications, shared an example of one client on a recent call for Ragan’s Crisis Leadership Network, who had visibility in small communities they served where leaders were faced with a reputational threat when a disgruntled former employee accused them of failing to support women and people of color in the organization. When Hamlin talked to leaders, however, “they start telling me all these fantastic stories.”

Hamlin was floored by the ways that the organization had helped employees and there were diverse leaders and women who held meaningful positions—but the company hadn’t told their story sufficiently, and they were vulnerable.

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Employees and Crisis Communications

It's a Whole New PR Ballgame


Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

After over a year of unpredictability and drastic change, plenty of people around the world are still looking to feel safe. Although many have already gone back to feeling relatively normal after the tumultuous months that have passed, there are still people who are operating on high alert and stressed about potential disruptions.

Additionally, although all employees are not the same– and they’re all going to respond differently to different situations– employers should be aware that plenty of those responses to potential disruption are due to the employees still feeling a lot of stress. Given how humans have six core needs according to scientists – choice, belonging, equality, progress, significance, and predictability – employers can infer that some of those needs aren’t being met in the workplace given the employees’ reactions to the pandemic.

Fortunately despite the global crisis, employers can still reframe the negative responses that some employees might have, and make the workplace a better space for everyone.

Questioning Behaviors

One of the common signs that employees are still facing a lot of stress is when they start questioning whether the company’s future plans are going to have positive results. The employee might start asking more questions that sound doubtful about the plans themselves, and perhaps not even suggest any potential alternatives. On the other hand, they might push back against a plan because they don’t believe in it.

When that happens, employers should communicate with the employee on why the employee feels the way that they do. They should have a discussion with the employee on what things could be changed for a better outcome, positively receive  recommendations from the employee, and make them feel heard.

Escape Behaviors

Alexei Orlov of MTM notes that, “Another sign that an employee is under a lot of stress from the crisis is showing that they have a need to escape. This can range from talking about looking for a new team to changing their role, and even to leaving the company altogether.”

To mitigate their feelings and those types of situations, it’s best to show that employee that the employer and the rest of their team can support them whatever their future decisions might be. Once again, there should be an open and transparent discussion to figure out what’s making the employee strive towards ‘escape’ type decisions.

Avoiding Behaviors

The avoiding  indicator is relatively easy to spot, as it’s easy to see how much attention someone is paying during meetings, for instance. It’s one of the classic behaviors of avoidance and unfortunately, it can cost the rest of a company quite a lot. That’s why it should be discussed as soon as it’s noticed, and the employee should understand how their behavior is impacting the rest of the team.

One of the best ways to go about these types of employee behaviors is to open the door to discussing what’s troubling the employee, and making sure they receive the feedback positively. Additionally, in these cases, it’s best to work towards finding a solution that will benefit all sides together.

RONN TOROSSIAN - HOW MANY FOLLOWERS DO YOU NEED ON INSTAGRAM TO GET PAID?About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.

Crisis Communication Tips from 5WPR CEO



Not handling a PR crisis well can negatively affect businesses for many years, which means customers aren’t going to be interested in a brand with a damaged reputation. Especially when those situations hit the front pages of news outlets, those are crises that stick in people’s minds for years to come. 

Fortunately, when companies are able to manage a bad situation with a strong crisis communication strategy, the crisis itself can end up being turned on its head and developed into a positive marketing campaign. 

All companies should develop multiple crisis communications strategies with plans to prepare for PR crisis situations, especially in our current times when customers have a lot of information available to them at the tips of their fingers and stories are able to go viral in just a few minutes. 

Crisis Management

The way that a company prepares for and deals with a crisis situation entails crisis management. Whether that situation involves technology, personnel, safety, or assets, it doesn’t matter. The main goal of crisis management is to mitigate the negative impact of the situation on the company’s reputation and its day to day operations. 

And to implement a successful crisis management plan, the business first has to figure out its potential crisis situations and any risks associated with them. Then, it should also create strategies to deal with those situations and make sure all of the individuals involved with the business have a great understanding of those strategies. 


As marketer Alexei Orlov of MTM has said, “Companies can do plenty of things to avoid turning a small situation into a big crisis, but the first step is always going to be to plan and prepare for all of those potential situations. By identifying strengths and weaknesses, companies can figure out which negative situations could potentially impact the business. Then, the company can strengthen those gaps and conduct simulated scenarios of different situations to understand how the crisis events could unfold and prepare different responses for each one.” 

This is all done with a crisis communications plan, where the company creates a crisis communications team with guidelines establishing how the business can communicate with everyone involved, the types of messages that will be stated, and how the information will be distributed. 

The Crisis

Whenever a crisis actually happens, the business can then turn to its crisis communications plan and team to execute a strong response to the situation. The first step for the company should be to assess the situation to be able to determine the right level of response and then deliver that response promptly before things ever get a chance to potentially escalate. 

The response and the plan shouldn’t only focus on the general public, the target audience, and the media. Instead, it should take the employees and stakeholders into account as well, when creating and delivering the response. That way, everyone connected to the business will be well-prepared and know what to do during the crisis itself, and the situation can be mitigated much faster and easier.

About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.

Changes in Crisis Communications

After a year of disruption and chaos, what about the practice of crisis communications is new and what’s the same as it ever was?



Ted Kitterman

After months of a global pandemic, racial justice protests and heaps of economic uncertainty, crisis communications has taken on new meaning. Some communicators have even gone so far as to suggest that everyone is a crisis communicator these days.

But what about the tactics and strategy is specifically different and how can brand managers adapt to be better prepared for whatever comes next?

Jennifer Granston, head of insights for Zignal Labs, shares her take on what the past few months means for the communications industry and what steps should be taken to be ready for an uncertain 2021.

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Cool, Calm and Cuomo: What We Can Learn About Crisis Communications from New York’s Governor

Filomena Fanelli, CEO and Founder of Impact PR & Communications, Ltd.

A short while back, the New York Post published an article about how New York women are crushing on their state’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and YouTube star Randy Rainbow released a parody song, in which he identified himself as a #CuomoSexual. Extreme as these examples may sound, whether you get excited when an alert for his press conference hits your social media feed or roll your eyes at the very thought of it – yes, like any politician, Governor Cuomo has his detractors – there are admirable takeaways from the way he is navigating the current COVID-19 pandemic and communicating with New Yorkers. Below are a few of the public relations lessons we can learn from Governor Cuomo: 

  1. Be authentic and accessible. Make like the Gov and remove the rhetoric from your communications. Your audience is smarter than you think and will appreciate the lack of double talk, insider lingo and evasive replies. The reason many people are enamored with Governor Cuomo’s addresses are because they are honest, compassionate, thoughtful and right on their level. 
  2. Share stories. It has been proven that humans remember messages with greater clarity when they are underscored with stories. In fact, famed cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner has said that we are 22 times more likely to recall a fact if it is wrapped in the package of a good allegory. Governor Cuomo’s stories about his mom, Matilda, conversations with his daughters and even lighthearted sibling rivalry banter with his brother, Chris, memorably highlight more serious points about staying at home, exercising health precautions and minding the safety of our most vulnerable loved ones.
  3. Keep consistent. Listen to Governor Cuomo’s press briefings and you will hear a message that is clear, concise and incredibly uniform. He repeats the same simple phrases often, such as “We over me,” and with as much passion and conviction behind them as possible, which drives the point home, persuades and makes listeners feel like they are part of a movement rather than the recipients of a message. 
  4. Look like the authority you are. Dress the part, whether you are holding a press conference televised on every major station or a webinar from your socially distanced home office. Confidence and polish command respect and inspire trust.
  5. Use visuals to underscore your message. Charts, graphics and boldfaced words, even with a dash of humor in the mix, help people understand complex matters with greater ease, particularly if these visuals are simple and limited to one key concept per slide. If you want your message to be absorbed, it should speak to multiple senses, including sight, sound and the all-important sixth sense Governor Cuomo appeals to: spirit.

One last bonus tip: If you want to deliver a message with influence, leave petty politics out of it. Staying above board, and framing arguments through cooperation and positivity, will unite your audience rather than divide them.

About the Author:  Filomena Fanelli is the CEO and founder of Impact PR & Communications, Ltd. (, an award-winning public relations agency based in NY’s Hudson Valley and serving clients throughout the tri-state area. Fanelli can be reached at 845.462.4979 or at

From The Front Lines – Best Practices for Managing Crisis Communications and Business Continuity

On-Demand Recording




Event Overview

Crisis communication is a critical function in any organization – yet often underappreciated until they are “needed”. In this webcast our experts will share personal stories about crisis preparation and having the data you need to execute your plans from their careers working in crisis communications and measurement. We will answer questions like “How does the role change when the Business Continuity team is activated?” and “How do you stay prepared and in charge of your reputation at all times?”

Key takeaways include:

  • Understanding of the function of Business Continuity
  • The role of the Communications professional working with the Business Continuity team
  • Differentiating between crisis communications and issue management
  • Using consistent measurement practices and data to understand what is working and not working very quickly.


John Taylor
Founder and Principal
White Oak

Mr. Taylor is an award-winning corporate communications executive with more than 20 years of experience providing strategic communications, public affairs counsel to leaders of Fortune 500 corporations, medium-sized businesses, and start-ups. Currently, he runs his own communications consultancy, advising technology and telecom clients. Previously he served as Vice President of Communications at Cruise Automation, GM’s self-driving car business in San Francisco. Before Cruise, John spent four years as the communications director at SpaceX, the world’s largest commercial space launch services provider. Prior to SpaceX, for more than a decade, John spearheaded all public affairs, issues management, and crisis communications strategies on behalf of Sprint. John has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Furman University in Greenville, S.C. and a Master of Government Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.


Eric Koefoot
Co-founder, CEO & President

Eric is an Internet pioneer, having either founded or served as a senior executive in Internet companies since 1996. He was CEO and Publisher of U.S. News Ventures, CEO of Five Star Alliance, and CFO and later VP of Sales at Washington Post Digital.  Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavors, he was an executive at Ford Motor Company and Deloitte Consulting.  Eric has an engineering degree and an MBA from M.I.T.

An accomplished Olympic-distance and Ironman-distance triathlete, Eric is currently a co-founder, and the CEO and President, at PublicRelay. PublicRelay is the most trusted media analytics solution for communications and marketing professionals at the world’s most recognizable consumer and business brands, associations, universities and government agencies.


Uber’s Crisis Communications are Far From Over

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

This month, Uber recorded one of the largest losses suffered by a US firm since the 2008 financial crisis, after the ride-sharing giant bore a huge charge related to the firm’s Wall Street listing in May. In the three months to June, Uber lost an eye-watering $5.2 billion, due mainly to a $3.9 billion charge in stock-based compensation to staff. 

This latest figure shows the company has lost more than $14 billion since it was founded just a decade ago. The news is just more bad press heaped on an already rough few years, and raises new questions over whether Uber’s controversial business model can actually turn a profit. 

Uber’s Crisis Communications are Far From UberBusiness model issues aside, we can be sure of one thing: the way Uber handles its crisis PR issues is only hurting its bottom line. In a data-security sensitive climate, Uber has come under fire in recent years for allegedly tracking journalists who were painting the company in a bad light; the scandal has not only caused a number of loyal users to delete the app, but provided some key lessons in crisis communication. 

First, it is essential that your company never speaks or responds without a plan. While you should never ignore the crisis, be sure that you plan your goals and the path to achieving them from the outset. Ensure that all key stakeholders are aligned with this message: during the data security flare up, investor Ashton Kutcher tweeted about the incident. Though he claimed not to be speaking on behalf of the firm, it provided an opening for even more criticism of Uber. 

Second, never assume you are above saying sorry. Remember the power of an apology: sometimes, a good apology is all that’s needed to defuse an otherwise charged situation. Uber, it seems, hasn’t quite got this message. In the past, blog posts by the company drew attention for their demonstration of a lack of ethics. Rather than apologize, Uber took them down without comment. 

Third, keep things above board and apologize when you misstep. As important as it is to ensure transparency in your dealings with customers, it is also essential that play within the boundaries of the law. In 2016, Californian regulators ordered Uber to remove self-driving vehicles from the road after the firm launched a pilot without the proper permits. Before the sun had set on the first day of the program, footage showed Uber vehicles running red lights, and creating hazards in bike lanes. Uber blamed “human error”, but no one else was convinced. The brand had failed, once again, to respond adequately and inspire confidence. 

Finally, invest in good leaders. Former CEO Travis Kalanick put a black mark on Uber in 2017 after he was caught on camera yelling at his own Uber driver who complained about the company’s declining rates. “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own sh*t,” Kalanick argued. He later issued an apology and said he intended to get “leadership help,” but his response was far from adequate. 

Uber’s cash-flow issues might be a case of disruption teething issues, but their crisis communications skills aren’t helping.

Uber’s Crisis Communications are Far From Uber - Ronn TorossianAbout the Author: Public relations mogul Ronn D. Torossian was referred to by Politico as ‘perhaps the most prominent practitioner of a brass-knuckled form of public relations.’

Boeing’s Crisis Communications Strategy Doesn’t Fly

Linda J. Popky, Founder of Leverage2Market Associates

The aviation world is in free fall in the wake of Sunday’s crash of a brand new Ethiopian Air 737 MAX 8 plane, killing 157 people.  Early indications are the incident bears at least some resemblance to the crash of a similar Lion Air 737 MAX8 plane last October, which took 189 lives.

While it’s too soon to know the definitive cause of this latest disaster, it’s highly unusual for two brand new airplanes, flown by experienced pilots of airlines known to be safety conscious, to fall out of the sky like this. The odds of two brand new aircraft of the same make and model randomly crashing within five months of each other are something like 1 in 10 billion.

Boeing maintains its aircraft are safe. And for the most part, they’re right. In spite of these fatalities, air travel remains one of the safest possible modes of transportation. But that’s not what’s on the minds of the flying public, government regulators, or the media. Since Sunday, every country in the world except the US and Canada, has restricted the movement of 737 MAX 8 planes within their air space.

Perception is reality. While the aviation experts examine black boxes and scour the crash site for clues, it’s Boeing’s reputation that’s at stake here. They’ve already delivered 350 MAX 8 planes, but there are more than 5000 more on order. That means hundreds of billions of dollars of orders are at risk, not to mention the $28 billion of value the stock has lost since Sunday, and of course the loss of hundreds of lives.

Other industry leaders have been hit with similar crises.

  • In 1982, Johnson & Johnson recalled 56 million bottles of Tylenol after seven people in Chicago died from ingesting poisoned tablets. The tampering happened at the retail level—not in J&J factories. Still the company took immediate decisive action. Sales losses were minimal, the brand continued to thrive, and J&J’s stock price did not suffer.
  • In June of 1994, a college professor discovered a flaw in Intel’s flagship Pentium chips that could cause incorrect calculations. Intel downplayed the error for months, finally agreeing to recall all defective processors in December of that year, at an earning hit of $475 million.
  • In 2010, California utility PG&E was found criminally responsible for the deaths of 8 people in a gas line explosion in San Bruno. Sparks from downed PG&E transmission lines were blamed for 17 of 21 major CA wildfires in 2017. The utility promised to take aggressive action to trim trees, replace outdated equipment, and proactively shut down power in high fire danger zones, but didn’t follow through. They recently admitted PG&E equipment was the likely cause of the 2018 fires in Paradise, CA that killed 80 people and caused over $16 billion in damage.

Johnson & Johnson emerged from their crisis pretty much unscathed. Intel survived but at a cost of nearly half a billion dollars. PG&E is in bankruptcy and will likely emerge a much different, smaller company as a result.

Given this kind of crisis, we’d all like to be Tylenol and not PG&E. Here are the steps Boeing should take:

  • Immediately order all 737 MAX 8s to be taken out of service. Most of them are grounded due to government action at this point anyway. The longer these planes fly under a cloud of suspicion, the greater the angst and hysteria surrounding the company.
  • Aggressively gather everything possible to determine what’s going wrong. While the NTSC and others are analyzing black boxes, Boeing should be reviewing data from every single MAX 8 flight, interviewing pilots who have flown the plane, talking to those who maintain it, working with representatives of each airline customer to be part of the solution. The goal is not to assign blame but to focus on getting to a solution. If you are doing this now, you need to be more public about it.
  • Create a “tamper proof” fix. This might mean adding a warning mechanism for detecting problematic automatic function, creating a “kill switch” that can immediately shut down the process if the pilot feels he can’t control the plane, or something else. This fix may not be necessary 99% of the time, but 99% of the time we don’t need plastic seals on over the counter drugs, either.
  • Rollout a retrofit program for each plane in service. Upgrades should occur at no cost to the airlines, regulators, or the flying public. Boeing should commit to doing what’s necessary to make things right, as soon as possible.
  • Take a public stance of humility. Don’t tell us how safe your planes usually are. Tell us what you are doing to make them even safer and to ensure incidents like this won’t happen again. Create an accountability plan. Stake management jobs and bonuses on getting this right. Then keep us informed on the progress being made to meet these goals.
  • Develop a process to prevent these problems from occurring in other new models. Whatever testing has been done previously, it wasn’t enough. How will you uncover possible fatal scenarios like this in the lab, rather than in the sky?

No one wants Boeing to go out of business. Flying is a part of modern life and we don’t expect to give it up. We just all want to feel Boeing jets are as safe as could possibly be.

It’s time for Boeing execs to make the tough calls to change perception. Maybe they should take two Tylenol first.

Linda Popky - Boeing’s Crisis Communications Strategy Doesn’t FlyAbout the Author: Linda J. Popky, founder of Leverage2Market Associates, is an award-winning Silicon Valley-based strategic marketing expert who is the author of the book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters. Follow her on Twitter at @popky #mktgabove.



Crisis Communications in the World of Small and Mid-Size Businesses

David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Most small and medium sized business owners never believe they will face a major crisis that requires a crisis communications response.  When they hear the term, crisis communications they believe only large corporations need to worry about crisis communications.  But nothing can be further from the truth.  In this world of social media and online reviews, one disgruntled customer can create a spiraling crisis for any sized company especially if this company has no plan on how to respond.  Recently I observed this firsthand with a small veterinarian practice and a disgruntled customer that played out on social media and online reviews.  The story should serve as a cautionary tale for small and medium sized business owners of what not to do in a crisis and why they need a crisis communications strategy.

A customer of 15 years brought her dog to her veterinarian practice for a ‘free spa day’ she had been given for being such a good customer.  When she picked up her dog, she was surprisingly charged for the spa day despite being told that it was free and presenting her coupon for the free service when dropping the dog off.  The invoice she received did not show the various services the veterinarian was supposed to have provided and was just told by the staff they had been done but they forgot to detail them.  Receiving no satisfaction about why she had been invoiced, she left annoyed.

Compounding the situation while returning home, her dog began to collapse on its side.  The woman instantly called the veterinarian and was told that one of the doctors would return her call.  When the doctor finally called her back, the woman relayed what had happened and said the dog seemed to be acting normal, asked if it could have been related to the spa day.  The doctor read a list of things that could have been wrong with the dog.  When the woman responded she couldn’t make it back prior to when the practice closed but asked if she should take the dog to an emergency vet, the doctor responded, “if you can’t afford a vet, just observe how she acts.”   The woman reported that she was outraged at that comment particularly as she had been going to the practice for 15 years spending over two thousand a year with the practice.  She told the doctor that she felt insulted, was taking her dog to the emergency clinic, and hung up on the doctor.

Fortunately, the dog was ok, but the emergency clinic told the woman it believed the dog’s reaction was due to the spa treatment.  An angry customer took to practice’s social media pages about the incident.  An employee who manages the pages, responded not apologizing on behalf of the practice nor suggesting the woman bring the dog in to be examined, but that she would convey what happened to the doctor who owns the clinic.

By Monday night, not hearing from the practice since Friday, the woman posted again not just on social media bit Google reviews, Yelp, and other online review sites.  The customer was still livid that no one from the veterinarian had contacted her directly regarding her dog’s healthy, apologized, or suggested she bring the dog in to be examined.  She spelled out in detail again what happened, and this time named the doctor at the practice who made the comment.  This led to other people who had given the practice positive reviews to respond saying while they loved the practice and various doctors, they also had issues with this particular doctor.  It went back and forth and then all of a sudden, the practice began hiding the comments.  This just led to a greater reaction from various people.  So, then the practice allowed the comments to show but began posting all positive reviews by staff members praising the doctor in question.  After nearly a week, the owner finally called the customer and left a message never once apologizing for any misunderstanding that may have happened.  Yet by this time, the practice’s rating on Facebook and Google had plummeted and the local media had been contacted.

This story is a textbook example of how a crisis can hit a small business and spiral out of control.  Small businesses can implement certain practices that can help prevent episodes like this.

  1. Address any issue on social media right away. While the employee handling the veterinarian practice’s social media might not have had authority to apologize on behalf of the practice, she should have alerted one of the owners or doctors right away who could have apologized and reached out to the customer to alleviate the issue.
  2. Don’t ignore or hide complaints. Once a complaint is on social media and other customers are responding to it, don’t attempt to hide the comments or not respond.  This just increases suspicions and anger among the posters.  Respond to comments even if it is just a generic response of, I am passing your comments to our owner who will be responding.
  3. Don’t try to counter negative reviews with reviews from your employees.
  4. Accept responsibility for your company and apologize.
  5. Be proactive in responding to complaints. The longer you wait to respond, the more the narrative has already been set.

Social media and online websites help raise visibility for companies regardless of size.  They also can bring a crisis to your company regardless of the size of your company unless you have a plan on how to respond before disaster strikes.

David E. Johnson: Lessons Learned: Let's Rock Public Relations in 2018!About the Author: David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and public affairs agency.  Additional information on him and company may be obtained at


What Should Crisis Communications Mean to You?

Ronn Torossian On What Should Crisis Communications Mean to You?Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

In almost every industry today, within businesses of all shapes and sizes, crisis communications have emerged as a hot topic of discussion. As the world becomes more digitally connected, and social, a growing number of companies are investing more time and resources into their emergency communication methods and disaster planning. In fact, according to some studies, around 84% of today’s organizations have their own crisis communications plan in place.

So, what is crisis communications? Crisis communication is a term used to describe the systems, technologies, and methodologies that allow organizations to communicate effectively during an emergency. It’s a special wing of the PR strategy which involves mitigating impending damage to a brand’s reputation. Additionally, some people describe crisis communications as the reverse of “standard public relations” wherein you’re attempting to get the attention of third parties for positive reasons. During a crisis communications strategy, PR firms work at dealing with negative media as quickly and effectively as possible.

Putting Out Fires in the PR World

Essentially, crisis communications are about putting out fires that might have been set in a number of different places throughout a business. One example of a fire that a business might be facing is a problem caused by another company when they claim that an organization did something improper, or unjust. Sometimes, fires in a firm come from internal issues, such as problems with messaging strategies, or the poor behavior of an employee. Like a fire, a public relations nightmare needs heat, fuel, and a catalyst. If something has gone wrong and your brand is on fire, you have the fuel – the thing that’s causing damage to your brand reputation, the energy, which is the tide of opinion that occurs after the problem takes place, and the way people respond to the event and the catalyst – how quickly you respond to the issue at hand. If you deny the fire any of these sources, you can break the chain reaction of reputation issues, and the problem can effectively burn itself out.

How PR Companies Offer Crisis Management

PR agencies use a careful combination of speed, ownership, and knowledge, to handle fires around a business reputation. For instance, by offering correct knowledge and information about an event, a PR firm can remove word of mouth rumors that might add fuel to the fire. Sometimes, in a crisis, people can try to fill in what they don’t know with assumptions, the right knowledge can solve this problem. Speed is another important element of proper crisis communications. The faster someone responds to a crisis, the more likely it is that you can stop the issue from spreading or getting out of control. Quick response times allow PR agencies to turn crisis stories into old news.

Finally, PR companies can give organizations the strategies they need to take ownership of the issue at hand, which helps to preserve that brand’s reputation after something negative happens. Being forthcoming and apologetic about an issue can remove some of the heat around a crisis, and make an audience feel better about the future, so they’re more likely to move on from the issue.

About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading crisis PR agency.

3 #MeToo Sexual Misconduct Considerations for CBS: Lessons in Crisis Communications & Public Relations

Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

3 #MeToo Sexual Misconduct Considerations for CBS-Lessons in Crisis Communications & Public RelationsVariety magazine is writing about the CBS public relations crisis surrounding the sexual misconduct allegations against CEO Les Moonves. Many of you reading this blog could be faced with similar allegations against one of your executives and wondering what you should do and how you should handle such a potential crisis. This requires both expert crisis management and expert crisis communication.

Variety asked for my thoughts as a crisis communication expert. My quote to Variety is identical to expert crisis management and crisis communication advice I would share with all of my clients. It begins with deciding a proper course of action and then sharing a sincere statementthat explains what you are doing and why. CBS has said they will leave Moonves in his position while they investigate. I would have gone one step further and asked Moonves to take a leave of absence during the investigation. Trust me, he won’t really be doing his job well with the weight of the accusations and the negative publicity of the crisis. This is the crisis management phase.

First, you should consider the perspective of the crisis. People believe they were hurt and want justice, while someone has been accused. Without a confession, it becomes a situation that requires a third-party investigation. This is the personification of “she said; he said.”

Secondly, consider that this is a highly volatile topic and that the #MeToo movement evokes strong opinions. There will never be a 100% agreement on how to handle such matters.

Thirdly, in business, the decision makers must remember the saying, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” Hence, when multiple accusers come forth with similar allegations, it is logical to assume the accused person is likely guilty. But lost in many sexual misconduct cases is the basic American principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. CBS, however, is following that principle.

My crisis management advice to any company facing allegations against an executive would be to ask the executive to take a leave of absence with pay while an investigation is conducted. My crisis communications advice would be that such a move must be accompanied by a thoughtful and sincere statement, such as:

“Because of the sensitivity of the allegations being made, we feel the best course of action is to conduct a thorough investigation. Because such investigations can prove disruptive to the day-to-day operations of the organization, we have asked the accused individual to take a leave of absence until the investigation is completed. Once the investigation is completed, we will share our findings with you.”

Of note in this modern age of frequent sexual misconduct allegations, employers would be well served to work out the logistics of such a leave agreement, during the hiring and contract phase of onboarding any new executive. Take your cue from police departments, who take an officer off of the street after a shooting, while an investigation is conducted. Some police officers are put on desk duty while others are put on paid leave. The police departments know that a distracted officer should not be on the street with a gun. Likewise, a distracted CEOshould not be making decisions that affect the reputation and revenue of the company.

Finally, remember that the time to address your crisis management and crisis communication plan of action is to make these hard decisions on a clear, sunny day, when you have clarity of thought. The best time to deal with a crisis is before the crisis happens.

Gerard Braud Discusses 3 #MeToo Sexual Misconduct Considerations for CBS: Lessons in Crisis Communications & Public RelationsAbout the Author: Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in new New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”


Papa John’s Pizza: 3 Crisis Communication, Public Relations, & Marketing Lessons to Learn

Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Papa John’s Pizza has a crisis. The crisis communications lessons, lessons for CEOs, for marketing and public relations teams, seem endless. This is a public relations and marketing crisis that appears to lack an expert in public relations and marketing. If you don’t believe me, look at the Papa John’s website as well as the images that I have included here.


Lesson 1:

If you could attach a dollar to every word you say, would you make money or lose money?

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has resigned as of 10:59 p.m. on July 11, 2018 because he used the “N” word in a conference call conversation. As I write this at 10 a.m. CDT July 12, 2018, the company’s stock has lost $96-million dollars in value. The phrase, “If you could attach a dollar value to every word that comes out of your mouth, would you make money or lose money?” is from Chapter 2, page 3, of the book, Don’t Talk to the Media Until… 29 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Open Your Mouth to a Reporter. Of course, in this case, the “N” word was not said to a reporter directly, but the dollar impact and lesson of guarding your words still applies.

I had planned to stop with just this lesson until I went to the Papa John’s website to get more information, which brings us to…

Lesson 2:

Does your crisis communications plan include contingencies for your CEO’s resignation and if your CEO is literally the face of the company, does your crisis communications plan include steps to remove that face from the company’s website?

Yes, John Schnatter’s face is in the logo, and as I write this, it is still live on the web.

Yes, John Schnatter’s face is in the logo and the news release announcing his resignation. Really? Did the public relations, marketing, branding, investor relations, and legal teams… did none of them think, “We need to change the logo.”?

And look at the all-important About Us page. Here you will find a huge picture of the CEO with his team.

Lesson 3:

Every crisis communications plan should have a massive library of pre-written news releases.

Paramount in that library of should be a pre-written news release for the CEO’s resignation. Twenty years ago I created a library system that relies on a variety of multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank options. My theory is that on a calm, sunny day, your clarity of thought is better than on your darkest day. Hence, you can pick your words more carefully and have them pre-approved by your legal team.

But… and let us call this Lesson 3.2: You call this a news release?

Papa John’s news release contains no context, empathy, or apology. Context, empathy, and apology are key components in crisis communications.

What should you do?

Every crisis is a time to gather your executive team, with your public relations, marketing, and branding teams to discuss the crisis of the day, the lessons learned, and to update your own crisis communications plan to handle just such a contingency. If you fail to do so, then you are failing to do your job.

Crisis communications should not be considered the art of putting lipstick on a pig after a crisis. To be a crisis communications expert you must anticipate every sort of crisis you could face, and write a living crisis communication plan to handle every scenario.

About the Author: Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in new New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

Starbucks Crisis Communications Quandary: 4 Expert Observations

Gerard-Braud-headshotGerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

The average public relations person, who claims to be a crisis communications expert, usually tries to sell reputation management to a CEO in crisis. The Starbucks crisis drives home the point that I always try to make, that an expert must consider both damage to reputation and revenue in crisis communications.  Here are key components of this case study:

  • A flawed corporate policy led to this crisis.
  • The CEO’s apology is flawed because the policy is flawed.
  • The crisis will be expensive because of the flawed policy.
  • Social media, once again, amplified a crisis.

On May 29, 2018, Starbucks will shut all stores for three hours for racial profile training. What will be the cost of a three-hour shutdown? This comes after two African-American males were removed from a store by police because a) they wanted to use the bathroom and b) they had not made a purchase, which is company policy for anyone who wants to use the restroom. No #Java No #Pee

The event was amplified by a video on social media. How much money has the company lost in revenue from customers who took offense and took their business elsewhere?

And how is the CEO doing in controlling the crisis? To Starbucks’ credit, they are using their website to post a message from the CEO.

However, my expert advice would have been to put the CEO’s video on the homepage, and not buried in the Newsroom. Furthermore, the headline says, “Statement from Starbucks and Attorney Stewart Cohen from Cohen, Placitella & Roth.” Are you kidding me? Attorney? This says, “We are covering our ass because we’re going to get sued.” How about “Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson Apologizes” as a better headline.

On HLN News, Money Expert Jennifer Westhoven showed a great checklist for CEOs who need to apologize. I agree with her. She’s as cynical as I am when it comes to judging CEO apologies. However, if the bad Starbucks corporate policy is not fixed, the apology lacks congruency, i.e. the CEO’s words don’t fully match his actions.

It is good that the CEO is out front owning the crisis. In a CNN media interview, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson says this won’t happen again. But it can happen again because Starbucks has a policy that says a person cannot use the bathroom if you don’t make a purchase, and employees are taught to refuse the bathroom to all non-paying customers, regardless of race.

We can only guess if race played a role in this. Yet the company is going all in on training regarding racial profiling by staff. While race is the amplifier of this crisis, I think this crisis may be more rooted in a flawed corporate policy in which employees are trained to question all non-paying customers.

Think about it… a major corporate crisis because someone didn’t spend $3 for a cup of coffee so they could pee.

Let’s calculate the lost sales from bad publicity and shutting down for a day of training because of a corporate policy that demands $3 for a cup of coffee.

Crisis communications is not about reputation management; Crisis communications should be about reputation and revenue… and preserving it by doing the right thing.


About the Author: Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC (Jared Bro) is an international expert, coach, trainer, author and professional speaker, who has worked with organizations on five continents. Known as the guy to call when it hits the fan, he is widely regarded as an expert in crisis communications and media issues. Gerard has been active in the field of communications since 1979. For 15 years, he worked in print, radio and television as a front line journalist, on the scene of every type of disaster imaginable. His affiliate reports have been seen around the world on NBC, CBS, CNN and the BBC. Since 1994 Gerard has specialized in helping organizations communicate more effectively through media training, crisis communications plans, and employee-manager training. Following the events of September 11th, he was commissioned to write the crisis communication plan for the Internal Revenue Service and its 800 offices across America. His plans are also used by the Library of Congress, the U.S. Army Missile Defense Command, numerous city, state and county governments, international corporations, national retailers, national and global non-profits, hospitals, and numerous schools and universities. Gerard has a gift for foreseeing and predicting crises before they happen. Fifteen years before Hurricane Katrina, he predicted the catastrophic destruction that would befall New Orleans through a series of award winning reports called, “When the Big One Hits.” For 2 years prior to the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, Gerard warned that the crisis communications plans at most universities were insufficient and would fail when they were needed most.  

Facebook Crisis: 3 Expert-Inspired Crisis Communication Truths

Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Crisis Communication Truth #1

You must communicate quickly in a crisis.

Crisis Communication Truth #2

If you fail to communicate quickly in a crisis, the narrative will be controlled on social media.

Crisis Communication Truth #3

Failure to control your communications, the narrative, and the truth, will result in damage to both your reputation and revenue.

Boom: Enter the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica crisis and the absence of a statement from Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg.
When I went to bed Tuesday night, March 20th, comedian Stephen Colbert was showing tumbleweeds rolling past an image of Zuckerberg, as the comedian noted the absence of a statement from Zuckerberg. At that time the stock value had dropped by $39 billion dollars.

Facebook Crisis: 3 Expert-Inspired Crisis Communication TruthsBy morning, Wednesday, March 21st, as I watched HLN, their graphic showed Zuckerberg with question marks all around him as they asked, “Where is Mark Zuckerberg?” By this time, stock value had dropped by $50 billion dollars.

It was Wednesday afternoon before Zuckerberg releases a statement on Facebook, trying to explain what happened. This brings us to a bonus truth that we will call Crisis Communications Truth #4: When you attempt crisis communications via social media, the angry mobs, trolls, and haters will unleash on you in a way that is uncontrollable and accomplishes nothing, except allowing space for people to vent.

Ironically, I’m in the midst of preparing a presentation called, “Social Media is at the Crossroads.” It will be presented at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) conference in Montreal, Canada on June 4, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. This case study personifies so many challenges that companies face in a crisis.

Facebook and Zuckerberg  did what most companies do; they made  no statement because they are gathering more information.

WRONG. It is always wrong to remain silent, because the void is filled with speculation by the media, pundits, social media, and comedians.

The RIGHT way to handle this begins with a simple statement that says your company is aware of the crisis, that it is being investigated, and that you hope to issue a statement shortly with more information. That’s it.

  • Acknowledge the crisis
  • Empathize with those who have been harmed
  • Apologize where possible
  • Promise to deliver more information within a reasonable amount of time.

While the silence prevailed, the primary discussions were people asking, “Where is Mark Zuckerberg,” and “Are you getting off of Facebook.”

Behold: A crisis of communications that damages reputation and revenue.

Behold: A crisis made worse because of the lack of proper crisis communications.

Behold: A crisis that cannot be controlled by releasing a statement on social media


About the Author: Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC (Jared Bro) is an international expert, coach, trainer, author and professional speaker, who has worked with organizations on five continents. Known as the guy to call when it hits the fan, he is widely regarded as an expert in crisis communications and media issues. Gerard has been active in the field of communications since 1979. For 15 years, he worked in print, radio and television as a front line journalist, on the scene of every type of disaster imaginable. His affiliate reports have been seen around the world on NBC, CBS, CNN and the BBC. Since 1994 Gerard has specialized in helping organizations communicate more effectively through media training, crisis communications plans, and employee-manager training. Following the events of September 11th, he was commissioned to write the crisis communication plan for the Internal Revenue Service and its 800 offices across America. His plans are also used by the Library of Congress, the U.S. Army Missile Defense Command, numerous city, state and county governments, international corporations, national retailers, national and global non-profits, hospitals, and numerous schools and universities. Gerard has a gift for foreseeing and predicting crises before they happen. Fifteen years before Hurricane Katrina, he predicted the catastrophic destruction that would befall New Orleans through a series of award winning reports called, “When the Big One Hits.” For 2 years prior to the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, Gerard warned that the crisis communications plans at most universities were insufficient and would fail when they were needed most.  

Crisis Communication Primer for PR Pros

Crisis Communication Primer for PR Pros


Read the latest guide from Crisis Communicator Guide for PR Pros from Critical Mention to discover how to address resolving a crisis and making the tough decisions about the appropriate response. Helio Fred Garcia, Executive Director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership, shares his insights into the fundamental elements in crisis management and being an excellent communicator.

To learn more tips to help your company navigate the next crisis, download the Crisis Communications guide today.

Best of Silver Anvil Highlights: Carilion Crisis Communications Response to WDBJ7 Shootings


On the morning of August 26, 2015, WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward were killed during their morning show’s last live segment around 6:45 a.m. Interviewee Vicki Gardner was rushed by ambulance to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH), the region’s level 1 designated trauma center, for emergency surgery.

Carilion Clinic’s crisis communications team began monitoring the event by 6:50 that morning, but their work actually started long before that.

Carilion Clinic’s crisis communications team is made up of marketing, research and communications experts. They also have a specially trained incident command team (ICT) of employees representing various departments, including clinical and non-clinical employees who have the relevant expertise and experience needed in managing incidents. They work with outside agencies to assist with hospital operations and safety, eliminate duplication of effort and provide logistical and administrative support.

The Clinic’s crises plan breaks down crisis response to its fundamentals – preparedness/mitigation, response and recovery – and is designed to remind users of appropriate steps to take and needs to anticipate in a crisis. It offers the base framework for communicating during a crisis.

Most importantly, the plan highlights the necessity of continued plan evolution and application through exercises and drills. As a result of this planning, Carilion is able to actively anticipate and respond to any crisis, not just react to an immediate need.

By 8 a.m. the day of the shooting members of the ICT met to debrief and draft the first internal messages. Objectives were to:

1.   Facilitate an efficient flow of timely, accurate and credible information between all parties.

2.   Protect the victim’s family by anticipating their needs and the needs of the media.

3.   Help the community cope and heal after such a devastating loss.

As the day progressed, the ICT drafted internal and external statements and planned a contingency news conference (later sending a representative to the Sheriff’s press conference instead).

In the days that followed, they maintained a log of media requests so none would be overlooked, issued daily patient condition reports, used social media to distribute messages concerning medical office closings, and coordinated media interviews for Vicki Gardner’s husband.

One standout among activities too numerous to list was the creation of videos about coping with loss at any age and addressing grief with children, as many children had seen the shooting live on television while they were getting ready for school.

Carilion’s response illustrated extreme professionalism in the face of personal tragedy.

For more information, click here:

Crisis Communications Management and the Cyberattack

Crisis Communications Management and the CyberattackElizabeth K. Hinson, Associate, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

Preparing for a cyberattack is not only a job for the C-Suite or Information Technology Department. Public relations professionals work in lock-step with other decision-makers following a data breach, especially because the legal requirements related to a cyberattack when consumer information is involved include public notice. As evidenced by public reactions to the recent, high-profile breach reported by Equifax, regulators and security bloggers can respond quickly by posting real-time feedback to breach events on Twitter and other social media platforms. As such, communication professionals need not only to sit at the table as company leadership prepares announcements to affected customers, but communicators are also likely to be called upon after the breach event is made public. In that capacity, they can help to strategize regarding the response in the face of often emotional, fast-changing criticisms from a variety of interested parties, including those persons who are directly impacted by the breach, as well as shareholders, law enforcement, and government regulators from various jurisdictions.

Because a cyberattack is an inevitable event for most organizations, preparing how to create a messaging strategy for the event when it occurs is just as important as any other possible crisis and is the key to remaining calm with key stakeholders, including customers, employees and investors. Emphasizing the significance of a strong communications team following a cyberattack, insurance companies are now providing for public relations costs in some cyber liability insurance policies.

Incident Response Communications Plan

By crafting a cyberattack communication strategy today, you will help your company, or client:

  • Tackle reputational risk.
  • Control the message.
  • Get out ahead of leaks (e.g., a customer’s detection of fraud on a credit account).
  • Dodge regulatory scrutiny by timely disclosure of the event.
  • Provide mitigating resources to impacted customers.

Consult Legal Counsel

Announcements regarding cyberattacks are communications tailored to regulatory requirements. Always consult an attorney who can advise on the appropriate language from applicable legal statutes. Ask for legal review before releasing a statement related to the cyberattack, including question-and-answer scripts, which should be prepared in consultation with legal counsel. If you work with counsel to coordinate the messaging in any consumer-facing messaging on a company website or in press release, you will protect your company or client from risks related to legal disputes that can result from a cyberattack.

Engage Multiple Communication Avenues

In addition to the regulatory notice that may be required by law, a company may utilize other strategic avenues for communicating with the public about the event. Prepare to engage the following resources after a breach:

  • Call center or staff to answer questions about the breach event and any questions related to mitigation services, such as identity theft monitoring.
  • Dedicated e-mail address or social media accounts to monitor and address concerns.
  • Direct line to executive tasked with managing response or responding to clients.

Cyberattack Taxonomy

Crucial to conveying a message about a cyberattack is understanding the categories of breaches, as well as basic vocabulary related to a breach event. Before an attack, know your breach types. You may be called upon to explain to a reporter the difference between a ransomware attack and a phishing attack and a compromise, as compared to a vulnerability. Think through the potential perceptions and consequences of referring to your company or client as victim of a criminal when reporting the event to the public.

30-Day Countdown (or Less)

Unique to a data breach event are the legal deadlines to provide notice to impacted customers and authorities. For example, some states like Florida require notice to affected consumers as soon as 30 days after a company has knowledge of a breach. For international companies that store data about EU citizens, the EU General Data Protection Regulation cuts notification deadlines to as soon as 72 hours after a company becomes aware of the attack.

While not all companies announce data breaches or cyberattacks within 30 days’ time – and for good reason, as law enforcement works to track down the hackers or as the company works to conduct a thorough computer forensics investigation – a company hacked by a criminal must still act as quickly as possible to contain the breach and determine what happened. If working to meet a statutory deadline, the company will need to accomplish myriad tasks in cooperation with company leadership across departments, cyberexperts, vendors, and in some cases, law enforcement. For example, a forensic investigation of the hack will report essential details regarding the scope of the incident for any public communications. Law enforcement investigations may further provide crucial components of the public message. Legal experts will weigh in with perceived legal risks, as well as advise on elements of the announcement required by law as content requirements vary by state.

In addition, a company may prepare scripts for company leadership and for call center staff to answer questions about the cyberattack. If notifying affected customers by mail, a notification vendor is often employed and this vendor typically needs the final communication several days before the deadline to ensure timely printing and mailing. For some breach events, notice via press release may be permitted and communications staff must coordinate the release of this notice with counsel because of legal requirements regarding how the message might reach affected populations.

These deadlines and required outside resources highlight the necessity of an incident response communications plan for any PR firm or communications professional likely to assist with a cyberattack crisis.


About the Author: Elizabeth K. “Bess” Hinson is an associate based out of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough’s Atlanta office where she practices in the Privacy and Information Security Practice Group. 




Next Day Crisis Communications & Opinion Survey Tool for Corporate Communications Professionals & PR Agencies

CommunicationsMatch has established a partnership with Researchscape International, a leading provider of research services to the communications industry, to launch a new next day crisis and opinion survey tool tailored to corporate communications professionals and PR agencies.

The new service offered through CommunicationsMatch enables communicators to ask 10 or 20 questions of either 500 or 1,000 respondents and have the results data within 24 hours of fielding the survey. The affordable survey tool is designed to be representative of the general population and to automatically generate results reports.

“We are delighted to have developed this new research option for the communications industry with CommunicationsMatch, which like Researchscape, leverages technology to help communicators achieve their goals,” said Jeffrey Henning, Founder & President of Researchscape International. “This is a powerful tool for industry professionals dealing with crisis and other situations where understanding how messages are resonating or quick feedback on the impact on a brand is a priority.

Once the tool has been selected, Researchscape’s survey experts work with clients to develop questionnaires, field the survey and cleanse the data. Within 24 hours of approving the survey, an automatically generated PowerPoint presentation, Word document report, and Excel file with results are provided to clients.

To ensure that survey data matches the overall demographics of United States adults aged 18 to 80 years old, Researchscape uses quota sampling with 32 mutually exclusive subgroups of region, gender, and age to ensure statistical validity. Watch a short 3-minute Communicators-to-Communicators Insights Video interview with Researchscape’s Tony Cheevers, Head of Business Development, about the approach.

“Expense and the time to complete surveys are perceived barriers to conducting research during a crisis,” said Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch. “The technology underpinnings of our next day crisis and opinion survey make it quick and cost effective to execute statistically valid research. The tool is an example of the way in which we are using technology to create value-added solutions for communications challenges.”

A ten-question survey of 500 respondents representing the general population is available for $3,995 and a twenty-question survey of 1,000 respondents is $6,495. As with other solutions on CommunicationsMatch, custom research options are also available for specific audiences and projects.



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