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The Crisis Communications Checklist for PR Professionals

April 21, 2022

If you're a PR professional, chances are, you're going to be responding to a crisis at some point. And instead of getting caught without a strategy when that time comes, you need to be proactive so you're never left in the lurch. 

There are many ways to approach building a crisis communications strategy, but very few ways to do so that result in one that’s beneficial to an organization when a PR crisis strikes. The sheer number of decisions a PR team must make in the heat of a crisis can feel daunting, and the fact that time is of the essence only serves to magnify that feeling.

Because of that, it's helpful to have a quick checklist of things you can do to make sure you start your crisis communications on the right foot--and don't end up in more hot water.

You'll want to start with the right media monitoring to track public sentiment, but your strategy shouldn't stop there! We put together this quick list of steps you can take when you find yourself in the throes of a PR nightmare. As you work toward creating your own strategy in response to a crisis, use this to-do list along the way to keep you and your PR team on course.

Task #1: Review your current strategic communications plan

Take the time to look at and align with your overall strategic communications plan. And don’t do it in a vacuum. Get feedback from stakeholders outside your PR team to better understand where the plan might have shortcomings regarding a particular crisis. Also, ensure that all your ongoing and potential crisis response efforts are aligned with this strategy. Make sure you understand the problem you’re trying to solve for the short- and long-term health of your organization.

Task #2: Conduct a thorough audit of current capabilities

What biases exist in your social and traditional media monitoring and measurement systems? By conducting an audit of your existing media monitoring and reporting capabilities, you can identify blind spots and adjust accordingly. For example, don’t just focus on your priority media list. Keep your search criteria as broad as possible to avoid narrowing your data filters. The more focused you are on specific media channels and publications, the more likely you are to lose sight of other media sources in your periphery where the ramifications of a crisis can thrive.

Task #3: Reevaluate your audience

This means take stock of your audience’s needs and behaviors. Analyze their comments on social and traditional media channels to gain deeper insight into their viewpoints and perception of your organization’s brand. You can even go one step further and conduct an informal survey or focus group to ensure your messages still resonate with your audience’s views and values. This creates a critical feedback loop that informs you on which of your efforts are working and which ones should be shelved.

Task #4: Keep your C-suite and internal stakeholders in the loop

Internal communication is just as important as your external communications efforts. Far too often, an organization’s PR team will put out one message only to have an executive or other brand representative release a statement that contradicts it. Align with your C-suite and other internal stakeholders on one unified message in response to whatever the current crisis is impacting your organization.

Task #5: Engage in active listening using Nexis Newsdesk

Give yourself the benefit of real-time feedback. Engage in active listening on social channels and apply what you learn to deliver meaningful, actionable insights to your stakeholders – and to inform future iterations of your crisis plan. Provide these stakeholders with data insights and guidance on how to manage your organization’s reputation, helping them better understand what your audience wants and needs. Consider circulating a short, weekly, or monthly data digest to keep stakeholders informed and make real-time adjustments to your plan.

Active listening becomes much easier with the right tool. While you could set up a Google alert, that will only be so effective. Instead, Nexis Newsdesk will get you accurate results at the click of a button. You'll have clear visuals that depict positive and negative sentiment as the crisis develops. And, with 4 million articles and social media posts added every day, you'll never miss important updates--giving you ability to handle the crisis with confidence.