How to Create a Crisis Communication Plan? 10 Steps

14 min read

Trouble can come at any time. A crisis can hurt your brand. Without a good crisis communication plan, things can get worse fast. This short guide puts you in control. Read on and be prepared!

Let’s see what’s ahead of us today:

What is crisis communication?

Crisis communication refers to rules you follow during and after the crisis.

Let’s establish the basics first. According to communication scholar, Timothy Coombs, crisis communication is the process of gathering and spreading information you need to address a crisis. The goal is to provide clear, accurate, and consistent information to maintain trust and control the narrative before it spirals out of control.

At this point, let’s differentiate between a crisis and an incident. Not every situation constitutes a crisis that requires a full-blown response.

Circling back to Timothy Coombs, a crisis is an event you can’t predict that jeopardizes the company’s performance and can have a negative impact on its stakeholders.

A crisis has the potential to seriously harm your company. A crisis can swiftly leak to the outside world and impact your organization.

Incident response, on the other hand, concerns any internal threats to your company. You don’t have to include your crisis response team. Just loop them in when the situation gets out of control.

Crisis communication entails all issues that could negatively impact your brand reputation, for example, HR complaints, product shortages, or litigation.

Use a brand monitoring tool to detect crises at an early stage!

What is a crisis communication plan?

Every good strategy starts with a plan. The same goes for the crisis management strategy.

A crisis communication plan is a set of rules your business should follow while facing a business crisis.

Usually, crisis communication covers three parts:

  1. A plan of action for when the crisis hits,
  2. Guidelines on how to communicate with the public,
  3. Steps on how to prevent the crisis from happening again.

The plan should list the ways in which you will communicate with your stakeholders — your employees, shareholders, customers, general media, and partners.

A vital part of crisis communication is transparency. You have to make sure every stakeholder is on the same page — knows the state of the affairs and what steps the business is taking to fight the crisis.

Why do you need a plan?

Without a plan, you’re essentially flying blind. You risk providing mixed messages, losing public trust, and worsening the situation. A plan ensures everyone knows their role and what actions to take.

How many crisis communication plans should you have?

Ideally, for every crisis that can hit your brand, such as product issues, financial troubles, cyberattacks, social media mishaps, or customer service failures.

How to create a crisis communication plan?

A crisis communication plan is essential to an organization’s risk management strategy.

It outlines how an organization will communicate with its employees, stakeholders, and the public during a crisis.

Here’s how to create one:

  1. Define the objective of the plan
  2. Identify the crisis team
  3. Conduct a risk assessment
  4. Create message templates
  5. Implement monitoring tools
  6. Create a chain of command
  7. Remember about social media
  8. Train for the crisis
  9. Expect unexpected
  10. Review and update

01 Define the objective of the plan

Before you list the stakeholders and draft press releases, think about the goal of your crisis communication plan. Setting a goal will ensure that every step of the plan aligns with it.

The main objective of crisis communication is to develop a communication structure for internal and external stakeholders. The communication plan should be implemented in a time of crisis that threatens the normal functions of an organization.

02 Identify the crisis team

Who’s in charge? Before anything else, establish who will be part of your crisis management team.

The communication team aims to deliver clear, accurate, and timely messages during the crisis.

This team may include public relations experts, social media managers, and internal communication specialists.

They draft press releases, update social media, and are often responsible for media outreach.

Pick a crisis management leader. This individual is the team’s linchpin, coordinating the crisis management process.

Also, designate a spokesperson. You need a person responsible for communication with the stakeholders.

The spokesperson can be your CEO, PR manager, or anyone who can handle tough questions and work well under pressure.

The person you choose should be able to communicate well with others. Their presence will influence how your company is perceived during a crisis, so you must choose someone likable.

A spokesperson will be a face representing your business. He or she will make it appear human. This method will help people relate more to your brand.

03 Conduct a risk assessment

What could go wrong? A comprehensive list of possible crisis scenarios is essential for targeted planning.

Ask yourself what kinds of crises are most likely to affect your organization.

This could range from natural disasters to cyber threats, product recalls, or damaging social media fallout. Rank each based on its potential impact on reputation.

04 Create message templates

What will you say? The core of crisis communications lies in the message.

Pre-draft templates for press releases, internal memos, and social media posts to help expedite the communication process during a crisis.

Here’s how to write a trustworthy message:

  • Be clear and concise: Avoid jargon and write in a language that is easily understood by your target audience. Clarity is vital in crisis communications.
  • Leave room for customization: While the template serves as a skeleton, each crisis is unique. Leave placeholders where specific information can be inserted.
  • Cover the 5 Ws: Who is impacted? What is the situation? Where did it happen? When did it happen? Why is this a concern? These questions should be addressed in the template.
  • Tone matters: The tone should be empathetic, transparent, and aligned with the brand’s values. 

05 Implement monitoring tools

You need to know what people are talking about your brand, product, or service. That’s essential for creating crisis management strategies!

Use a brand monitoring tool to detect crises at an early stage!

How do you monitor your company online?

First, you can simply enter the name of your brand into a search engine and track what is being said about you. This solution has one big advantage — it’s free.

Unfortunately, there are more drawbacks, and the biggest one is that you might miss a mention that will escalate into a crisis.

Monitoring by hand also takes a lot of time and doesn’t offer any kind of analytics.

A solution here is a dedicated brand monitoring tool, for example, Brand24.

A monitoring tool will collect all publicly available mentions containing your predefined keyword. You can monitor the name of your brand, your branded hashtag, campaign-specific hashtag, or anything else that is connected with your brand.

Here’s how such a tool can help you with:

Mentions monitoring

Brand monitoring tools usually collect mentions from:

  • Social media channels
  • News
  • Videos (for example, YouTube or Vimeo)
  • Newsletters
  • Forums
  • Podcasts

From that moment on, the tool will collect and analyze publicly available mentions containing your chosen keyword.

There are other features useful for crisis communication.

Sentiment analysis

Detecting when a crisis occurs is the most challenging. How to do that? By tracking the brand sentiment to detect any rise of negative mentions at the early stage.

Sentiment chart inside the Brand24 tool
Sentiment chart inside the Brand24 tool

Media monitoring tools analyze the tone of the online mention. Then, it assigns a category to the mention. It can be either positive, negative, or neutral.

Sentiment analysis can do wonders for crisis communication plans. This feature allows you to track negative mentions and their sources in real-time.

Negative mention detected by the Brand24 tool
Negative mention detected by the Brand24 tool

Reputation Score

Reputation Score is a metric developed by the Brand24 tool to help you track your organization’s reputation. Thanks to this feature, you can easily detect business reputation damage.

This metric operates on a scale from -100 to 100, where 100 is extremely good. When positive mentions overwhelm negative ones, the score increases.

If your reputation score suddenly drops, it’s probably the right time to start crisis communications.

Reputation Score of the Oreo brand detected by the Brand24 tool
Reputation Score of the Oreo brand detected by the Brand24 tool

Track the Reputation Score of your brand!


I’m aware that because of your daily tasks, you are not able to check your monitoring tools every day.

But to protect your brand reputation, you need to know about any threats right away. That’s where alerts come in handy.

Brand24 offers three types of alerts: email notifications, storm alerts, and in-app messages.

They will help you stay up to date whenever you notice an increase in mentions volume.

Storm alert showing key mentions detected by the Brand24 tool
Storm alert showing key mentions detected by the Brand24 tool

Emoji analytics

Emoji analytics may initially seem like a trivial or lightweight subject, but they can offer valuable insights into crisis communications.

Emojis serve as a condensed form of emotional expression and can often act as a pulse check on public sentiment.

In a crisis situation, it’s crucial to understand how people are feeling so that communicators can tailor their messages more effectively.

Emoji used in a discussion about the Oreo brand detected by the Brand24 tool
Emoji used in a discussion about the Oreo brand detected by the Brand24 tool

Use a brand monitoring tool to detect crises at an early stage!

06 Create a chain of command

Once a company member spots a potential threat, he must know what to do. That’s where the chain of command comes in handy.

A hierarchy of information will ensure that the crisis is addressed quickly. This gives you a chance to fight it before it all hits the fan.

The order depends on the structure of your company. In flat structure organizations, you can go directly to your CEO. When you work in a hierarchical structure, you should probably go to your supervisor first.

Crisis communication plans should indicate what information should be disclosed to each party. What is the source of the crisis? What are the details? What are the possible ramifications for the company?

07 Remember about social media

Social media plays a crucial role in crisis communications by serving as a powerful tool for sharing information, managing public perception, and enabling communication between organizations and the public during the crisis.

Organizations can use social media to provide regular updates about the evolving situation, including steps being taken to address the crisis.

But on the other hand, social media can pose certain risks during crisis management:

  • Misinformation and rumors: Social media platforms can be breeding grounds for spreading misinformation, rumors, and false information during a crisis. 
  • Lack of control: Once information is posted on social media, it can be shared and reshared by users, potentially going viral.
  • Negative comments: In a crisis, emotions can run high, and people might express anger, frustration, or criticism on social media. Negative comments and backlash can quickly escalate and damage an organization’s reputation if not managed appropriately.
Negative mention detected by the Brand24 tool
Negative mention detected by the Brand24 tool

That’s why it’s crucial to post a proper crisis response at the right time on your social media accounts.

To quickly detect which social media platform delivers negative comments, you can use a brand monitoring tool:

Sentiment analysis of the Nike brand conducted by the Brand24 tool
Sentiment analysis of the Nike brand conducted by the Brand24 tool

08 Train for the crisis

When a crisis situation appears, you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you have to process and the number of decisions you need to make.

But you can put a drill in place and train for the most common scenarios. That way, you will make sure that everybody knows what they are doing and will not be caught off guard.

Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  • Identify potential crisis scenarios that your organization could face.
  • Determine the key roles and responsibilities within the crisis communication team.
  • Train spokespeople on how to project calmness and empathy during crisis situations.
  • Conduct crisis simulation exercises to practice how your team would respond to various crises. 
  • Emphasize the importance of providing accurate information and avoiding speculation.
  • Train your team on using various communication tools, including social media platforms, press release templates, and email communication.
  • Outline the procedures for escalating a crisis to higher management or decision-makers when necessary.
  • Analyze past crises within your organization and similar industries to identify lessons learned and best practices.

09 Expect unexpected

You can do everything right and still come across an unexpected set of events. The goal of a crisis communication plan is to minimize the damage.

But even the best communication plan can backfire. You have to expect that not everything will go smoothly and be mentally prepared for every possible scenario.

10 Review and update

How often should you review your crisis communication strategies? It depends on how rapidly your organization’s environment changes.

During such a review, you should:

  • Identify new potential crisis scenarios that have emerged since the last review.
  • Evaluate changes in the industry, technology, regulations, and public sentiment that could impact your organization’s risk landscape.
  • Review any past crisis situations your organization has faced since the last plan update.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of communication channels used in the previous plan. Determine whether new platforms or channels have become more relevant or popular.
  • Consider the role of social media, internal communication tools, traditional media, and other relevant channels.
  • Review and update message templates.
  • Assess the tools used for communication, monitoring, and analysis during a crisis.

Use a brand monitoring tool to detect crises at an early stage!

Key crisis communication tips

Effective crisis communication strategies can make a significant difference in how a brand weathers a storm.

Here are some tips for managing communication during a crisis:

Before crisis

  • Have a plan: Always have a crisis communication plan and ensure key team members are familiar with it.
  • Regular training: Train your crisis management team regularly, ensuring they are familiar with their roles and responsibilities.
  • Update stakeholder contacts: Keep an updated list of important contacts, including employees, stakeholders, and media.
  • Listening and Monitoring: Use social listening tools to track mentions of your brand, products, or industry-relevant keywords. Assign a team to assess the sentiment and elevate any issues that could escalate into a crisis. For example, Adidas receives the most negative mentions from X (Twitter). Here, you can see the sentiment by the source of mentions:
Sentiment analysis of the Adidas brand conducted by the Brand24 tool
Sentiment analysis of the Adidas brand conducted by the Brand24 tool

Detect positive and negative mentions of your brand!

During the Crisis

  • Activate crisis plan: Once you confirm the crisis, immediately activate the communication plan.
  • Speed is key: Rapid, accurate, and forthright communication can often limit the damage.
  • Designate spokespeople: Only authorized persons should communicate with the public to ensure a consistent message.
  • Be transparent and honest: Don’t hide the truth or obfuscate facts. If you don’t have all the answers, say so.
  • Regular updates: Provide regular updates even if the situation hasn’t been fully resolved. Silence can lead to speculation and misinformation.
  • Monitor real-time feedback: Keep an eye on social media, news, and other outlets to understand how your message is being received and make adjustments as necessary. You can use customer feedback tools for this purpose. 
  • Legal consultation: Consult legal experts to ensure that your communications are within the bounds of the law, especially in heavily regulated industries.
  • Internal communication: Don’t neglect internal stakeholders. Keep your crisis communication team informed so they also communicate accurately if approached.

After the Crisis

  • Debrief: Conduct a post-crisis sentiment analysis to evaluate what went well and what didn’t in your communication strategy.
  • Public reckoning: Depending on the severity of the crisis, consider issuing a final statement or report detailing how the situation was handled and steps taken to prevent future occurrences.
  • Acknowledge and thank: Don’t forget to acknowledge the efforts of those who helped during the crisis, both internally and externally.
  • Revise the plan: Use the lessons learned to update your crisis communication plan so you’re even better prepared for the next crisis.
  • Regain trust: Rebuilding reputation and trust doesn’t happen overnight. Continue to communicate transparently about your steps to prevent a future crisis.


Keeping communications during a crisis is challenging. But with a solid crisis communications and management plan, you will handle it.

Remember those tips:

  • Create a comprehensive crisis communication plan before a crisis occurs. Outline roles, communication channels, and critical response templates.
  • Keep an eye on social media and news to catch misinformation early. Respond promptly with correct information to prevent false rumors from spreading.
  • Regularly practice crisis scenarios through simulations. Learn from each experience and update your plan to prepare for new challenges.

How to detect a crisis at an early stage? The easiest way is to use a brand monitoring tool. Monitor mentions across the internet and track their sentiment.

Brand24 is one of the best tools that will help you detect and manage crises. Try it during a 14-day trial!

Related articles