A crisis is defined as a time of great danger, difficulty or confusion when problems must be solved or important decisions must be made. So how does this translate in the world of public relations and communications?

From a negative review to a natural disaster to a global pandemic, a PR crisis can come in all shapes and sizes, some having a large impact or others that may slide under the radar unnoticed. Crises can happen at any turn and with little to no notice. And in today’s world, the power of social media and going viral can turn any crisis into a #PRnightmare.

So how do we avoid the pitfalls of bad publicity? Having a team of PR pros on your side to protect your brand’s hard-earned reputation is an invaluable asset. Should the unthinkable ever occur, the below strategies are a few tools we utilize at Lou Hammond Group to navigate crises efficiently and successfully, no matter the size.


Navigating a crisis is something that every organization should be prepared to face at some point in its operational life cycle. Developing a crisis communications plan allows you to respond quickly, efficiently and confidently. An effective plan will 1) designate a spokesperson for all media relations and to whom you will attribute media statements to 2) identify your key audiences 3) distinguish the best communication channels – whether social or traditional – to reach your target audiences and 4) inform all employees, board and team members of the above protocols so that communication efforts are streamlined.

Key Messaging

Once an emergency, disaster or misstep occurs, it is important to gather all the facts in order to craft your response. Every situation varies but leading with transparency and honesty is always recommended for when a public statement is necessary. The best responses typically address the key facts – the who, what, where, when and why – as directly as possible. To put it simply, sharing what your company has done, will do or when an update should be expected without placing external blame is the hallmark of any effective response. By creating these holding statements in advance, you are setting your company up to respond to any situation promptly and confidently.


The saying – delivery is more important than the content – rings true in crisis communications. While content informs our audiences, its delivery can cause the message to be interpreted entirely out of its intended context. With that, the importance of how you choose to share your message cannot be over emphasized.

The delivery of a crisis statement can find itself taking many forms, but the first pivotal decision can be boiled down to whether you want your message shared proactively or reactively.  The benefits of a proactive approach allow you to get in front of the situation. The sooner you address the issue, the sooner people move on it from it and retain their trust in your brand. On the other hand, the benefits of a reactive approach allow a company to monitor the public sentiment and avoid shining additional light on an already negative situation. The particular crisis will inform your decision on how to time sharing your company’s response. Media training for executives and spokespersons is another tool we often recommend so that messaging can be practiced, tailored and effectively delivered in those more traditional interview settings.

Find Your Audience

Once you have established what your message is and when you want to deliver it, you will need to identify who you want it to be shared with – from stakeholders and employees to customers and media. Effective and swift communication with your target audiences is critical to a successful crisis strategy – whether you are sharing the protocols internally with executive leadership, informing stakeholders on the next steps and plan of action or communicating with the media publicly. Perhaps your crisis communications strategy is to share your holding statements with a few, targeted media that are familiar and friendly with your brand. Regardless of who your audience is, your messaging should be tailored to address their specific needs.

And let’s not forget about social media here. Businesses now more than ever rely on social media to communicate directly with consumers. This direct line of communication can be an asset, as well as a potential risk, and needs to be navigated thoughtfully. Having a presence on social media makes brands completely accessible to the opinions of the public, which brings us back to the importance of transparency and honesty in your key messaging.


A crisis communications plan should be treated as a fluid, living strategy that can evolve with the needs of the company. This is why it is imperative to monitor public sentiment both during and well after a response is made to a crisis. Understanding various viewpoints and tracking how they evolve will only strengthen a company’s response. These viewpoints can range from the general public, a business’ customer-base, the media or even competitors. Having a firm grasp on what others are saying about your brand and its actions through the crisis will allow you to not only address but curtail further negative commentary. By critically assessing how your response was received, companies are provided the opportunity to learn and grow as for future crisis planning and better meet the needs of their stakeholders and customers.

The above strategies create a solid foundation for a successful crisis communication plan. The ultimate takeaway though is to create a strategy and stick to it. Take a sincere and honest approach. Communicate with transparency and demonstrate a willingness to learn and grow from the situation.