When developing a crisis communication strategy, it is important to first understand the distinction between emergency and crisis. Although often used interchangeably in everyday discourse, they are not the same thing. A crisis is a time of intense difficulty or stress where tough and important decisions must be made. An emergency is a serious and often dangerous incident that typically threatens health, life, or property and requires immediate action. Although they can be cojoined, a crisis can occur without emanating from an emergency and vice versa. Because they are distinct, it is important to develop unique strategies for both emergencies and crises.



Emergencies are usually easier to plan for. Although we do not know when or even if they are going to occur, most individuals and organizations have identified a laundry list of potential emergencies they could be exposed to and developed comprehensive plans for response. Additionally, for many of these emergency scenarios, training and drills have been conducted to help ensure that these plans can be executed in an effective manner. Planning and drilling for a fire emergency is probably the most relatable example of this. In educational environments, everyone from the school principal or childcare director down to the youngest student has been trained on what to do. 

Crises are typically not as easy to plan for because each crisis can contain unique and unanticipated elements. Planning for the unknown, however, can still make a positive impact. You may not be able to anticipate the exact nature and details of a crisis before it arises, but you can put fundamental strategies in place to prepare your organization to be as well positioned as possible when it does. One way to test the health of your crisis communication strategies is to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you know who in your organization will most likely be responsible for crisis communications?
  2. Has that individual(s) received any communication training?
  3. Are you aware of all the resources available to you to assist with your response strategy?
    • Legal
    • Human Resources
    • Law Enforcement
    • School District/Corporate Leadership
  4. Do you have a preferred method of communicating with stakeholders and media?
    • Written
    • Verbal
    • In Person
    • Televised
  5. Do you have access to a library of previously delivered communications that have effectively helped to mitigate the impact of like situations?

At SEC, we always emphasize to our clients that they try to solve problems before they actually arise.  Although you may not know the exact nature or impact of a crisis before you experience it, there is a great deal you can do to be as well prepared as possible to mitigate its impact. As always, please feel free to reach out to us if we can be of assistance in fleshing out your crisis communication plan and please look for our additional posts on this topic as we will be providing additional guidance on crisis communication strategies.