How to Effectively Communicate During a PR Crisis, in 11 Steps

zoomed in notepad of text that says crisis management plan

Twenty-one-year-old Gracie Lorincz recently took to TikTok to expose a Michigan boutique store boss for calling her “not that cute” in an email. This video immediately went viral, causing viewers to flock to the boutique’s website and Google Play page to leave negative reviews, calling aspects of the app and clothing brand “not that cute.” The reviews brought the store’s rating down from a five-star to a one-star. 

This story is just one of the latest public relations crises taking social media by storm. Others you may recall include United Airlines passenger removal, the BP oil spill, and the Sony Pictures hacking scandal. Unfortunately in the digital age, companies large and small can face incredible backlash from online users all over the world, turning what once would have been a minor issue into a full-blown PR crisis. Because PR crises have become so prevalent, it’s important every PR professional—no matter their crisis management training level—understand how to effectively communicate during a crisis. 

Review these 11 steps for crisis management and communication so you’re ready for anything!


  1. 1. Create a Crisis Management Plan

  2. Your company’s public relations, executive, and legal teams should work together to develop a crisis management plan, which will ensure you’re prepared in case of an emergency. It should include steps on how your company will handle the crisis, communicate with the public, and prevent the event from recurring.

  1. 2. Designate a Crisis Management Team

  2. Curate a small team of senior leaders on your public relations, executive, and legal teams to serve as the company’s crisis management team. Typically, these individuals will undergo crisis communication training and be the main points of contact for anything crisis-related. When such situations arise, the team should work together to develop a timely response. 

  1. 3. Update & Test the Plan

  2. The crisis management plan should be reviewed and updated annually according to the company’s latest standards and values. Conduct a yearly exercise during which you test the plan, ensuring all personnel are aware of their responsibilities if such an event occurs. 

  1. 4. Pre-Draft Messaging & Content

  2. Although it may seem odd to draft crisis communication messaging and content before such has happened, this is a critical step in the pre-crisis preparation process. Create templates with draft messages from top executives, leaving blanks where information must be filled. The PR team should draft them, but ensure the legal department pre-approves them. 


During Crisis

  1. 5. Develop an Initial Response Within the Hour

  2. Your initial response should be quick, accurate and consistent, explains the nonprofit Institute for Public Relations. This is where the template comes in handy. Fill in the details and adjust where necessary. Send it to legal and then the leadership team for final approval. Such messages are typically called “holding statements,” as they address the situation in a timely manner, enabling you to investigate the situation further and create a more in-depth response. According to many PR pros, including Ashley Walters of Empower Media Marketing, never let your initial response be “No comment.”

  3. 6. Keep Your Spokesperson Trained & Informed of Key Points

  4. You should have identified your spokesperson when building your crisis management team. This can be a top executive or an individual hired specifically for this role. No matter their position, they should be trained to speak in front of the press and on social media. Ensure this person is briefed of the matter, consistently updated, and given key message points to discuss. 

  5. 7. Send Out the Right Message

  6. After releasing the initial statement and reviewing the situation, it’s time to develop a comprehensive response. Begin by offering an apology, and take responsibility for the issue. Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR told Forbes, “Following a public apology, the company must offer a call to action. They must do something substantial to show that they are changing their ways moving forward.” This can be done by implementing policy changes, offering discounts, providing counseling, or other solutions depending on the situation. To ensure you choose the right action, take some time to understand the crisis, the pain caused, and the feedback or reviews left by consumers. 

  7. 8. Use All Available Communication Channels

  8. Communicate with your audience including your customers, employees, and stakeholders via all available communication channels such as email, text, customer service line, voicemail, your website, and social media. Utilize a unique website or landing page to address concerns and employ a mass notification system to reach employees and stakeholders. 




  1. 9. Deliver Promised Information to Stakeholders

  2. Although the crisis may seem to no longer be on the radar, it’s important you continue to take strategic measures to revive the brand's reputation. If you promise to deliver certain pieces of information or data, ensure you follow through. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing the trust of the public and your stakeholders. 

  1. 10. Implement Corrective Measures

  2. Don’t just talk the talk the talk. If you tell the world you are going to make policy changes, do just that. The public is sure to see through your empty promises. 

  1. 11. Analyze Your Response Efforts

  2. Determine how you, your team, and your company responded to the crisis by conducting a post-crisis evaluation. Ask these questions: What strengths/weaknesses did the brand show during this time? Did the team effectively respond to concerns? What could we have done differently? You will learn something new from every crisis management response that you can integrate into future plans. 

News Direct can assist your team through a PR crisis. Our self-directed platform ensures your initial and subsequent statements are distributed in a timely and efficient manner. Plus, your PR team, executives and legal counsel can comment and edit directly within the platform, further cutting the time spent pushing that response out the door.