How to create a crisis communication plan

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When a crisis appears, it does not warn. Media em Movimento helps you to identify the various stages of a crisis. If you can fill in each item, you will be making your crisis communication plan.

When a crisis appears, it goes through several stages or phases: pre, during and post. Read carefully and think about your business.


Anticipating a crisis involves:

. Identifying the strategic risks of the business;

. Draw possible scenarios and what are the associated risks;

. To plan a crisis (even if remote, include disruption of operations, impact on reputation and impact on shareholders);

. Monitoring – identifying sources of internal information that follow the process and provide real data in a crisis scenario.

1.1. Create a crisis team

Here are the main positions in a crisis management team, with the proper responsibilities:

. Administration and Executive Direction – it must be aware of the crisis plan or have it approved in advance for they are the final decision-makers. In general, they represent the company for the internal and external public, contacts with the government and journalists;

. Legal/ Tax – it must safeguard legal issues throughout the crisis decision-making process, negotiate with unions and regulators, provide technical and fiscal information on the current situation;

. Financial – it must evaluate the financial impact of the crisis on the company, approve the intervention costs in crisis management and evaluate possible decisions that compromise the financial stability of the company in the market in which it operates;

. Marketing and Communication – it must develop, validate and execute the communication strategy in a crisis situation, write and send internal communications (employees and shareholders) and only then communicate to external audiences. It must locate the news, follow the social media, respond to complaints, and accompany the spokesperson on all trips and interventions with the press;

. Human Resources – it must take care of the impact of the crisis among employees, monitor the people affected by the incident, including employees and their families. It must measure the psychological impact of the crisis on human capital and ensure security within the facilities (entry and evacuation of people);

. Hygiene, Safety or Operations – it is responsible for the company’s technical and operational areas, ensuring the safety of the facilities, equipment, quality and production.

1.2. Identification and training of spokespersons

Being prepared to anticipate or respond to investors and the press about a crisis is essential.

You should start by identifying who may be a spokesperson and speak on behalf of the company. That person must be competent, cold-blooded and empathetic. In a crisis situation that affects the company’s reputation, the spokesperson must be the highest position: the President, the CEO or the General Director.

In crises that affect technical areas of the company, the spokesperson may be the supervisor or coordinator of each technical area.

For legal, juridical and tax matters, the company’s lawyer or legal manager is the right person.

For personnel and team incident issues, the human resources manager must assume the role of the spokesperson.

In technological matters, the person in charge of information technologies must also be trained.

But what is the spokesperson training? It consists of training in a role play model (role playing) where crisis scenarios are simulated and where response skills are trained on an internal and external levels to the company.

That training should be filmed for the participants to view their posture and attitude, correcting them. From the training, a plan of recommendations in case of crisis should come out for each element.

1.3. Crisis monitoring

It is very important to find sources of information that allow you to measure the impact of a crisis.

The sources can be diverse, from news in the press, social media posts, customer emails, employee requests, complaint portals, online petitions, among others.

Create a list of sources of information and monitor them on a daily basis, creating a logbook with the evolution and resolution for each one.

You should also classify the content of each source by priority, defining responses for each one. This will help maintain good internal communication and measure the impacts in the crisis evaluation phase.

1.4. Crisis and stakeholders

Stakeholders are the audiences for whom the company works, whether they are internal or external.

From shareholders to employees, partners, customers and government entities. All audiences affected by the company’s intervention must be considered.

Communicating the reasons for a crisis to stakeholders is mandatory. If you follow the criteria of transparency, consistency and pragmatism, everything will be fine. Always start by communicating a crisis from the inside out, and not the other way around. Always start with the management and employees, and only then the external public. They should know from you rather than from the news or from customers.

Make a stakeholders’ map and identify the fastest way to communicate with each one of them, making your action faster and more effective.


Time pressure and stress will try to take away your judgment when making the decision, but if you have an already made crisis plan you will be able to identify the key tasks during the crisis process. Consult this list and you will be able to focus. But do at least two important things: daily briefings and real-time response.

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2.1. Daily briefings

The daily status is essential to evaluate the crisis’ evolution, the level of risk and damage to the company’s image, as well as helping in the decision-making process.

The crisis team, or at least the press officer, must do:
– an analysis of the previous day’s data (remember the monitoring, the sources of information collection);
– and daily briefing – it is mandatory in the risk evaluation. It must be internal, but it can evolve into a press conference format if the crisis is of an emergency nature.

2.2. Respond in real time

Responding to investors, the press and employees about threats to the organization’s financial reputation and image is crucial and it can be done by different spokespersons, as long as the message is aligned with the main message.

The communications manager or press officer must be involved in the entire process, especially in the relationships with the press. If you do not have a press officer, but a specialized agency, it is best.

Tip for communication to flow faster: centralize communication in one person only, after internal validation.


. Recovery: it is time to assess financial damage, the claims throughout the crisis process, disaster damage, resolve legal disputes and all actions to recover from the crisis.

. Evaluation: of the crisis’ response – what went well and less well, the messages, the spokesperson’s posture, the current context in general, etc.

. Monitoring: locate all internal and external data sources that provide indicators after a crisis scenario (news, emails, social media, among others).

. Lessons taken from the crisis: what you learned from the situation and made the company stronger for the future.

Any crisis is a reason to communicate your company, reactively or proactively, to internal or external audiences, with transparency, consistency and accuracy.

Always communicate your company under any circumstances.

Know the opportunities to communicate your company in a crisis situation.

Mafalda Marques, general director of Media em Movimento


  • Manual de Segurança Alimentar, ASAE, 2014
  • Gestão de Crise e Comunicação, Joao José Forni, Atlas Editora
  • CRISES – De Ameaças a Oportunidades: Gestão Estratégica de Comunicação de CrisesAntónio Marques Mendes e Francisco Costa Pereira, Edições Sílabo
  • Gestão de Crise, Joaquim Caetano, Maria Vasconcelos e Paulo Vasconcelos, Editorial Presença