PLMR Deputy MD Elin de Zoete gives her top 20 tips for handling a crisis

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it,” so said Warren Buffett many a moon ago… before social media was even invented and things got much more complicated.

This week I was delighted to present at Crisis Communications 2016, giving my golden rules for crisis management… here are my top tips distilled:


1.    Build a crisis team now – decide who do you need around the table?
2.    Have a good out of hours contact procedure and get secondary contacts for key personnel
3.    Decide who is ultimately responsible for signing off statements and strategy
4.    Allocate your spokespeople
5.    Media train your spokespeople for aggressive questioning
6.    Agree your internal crisis handling protocol
7.    Map your stakeholders – who shouldn’t read about a crisis in a newspaper first?
8.    Know how to gain rapid control of all media channels – beware planned tweets!
9.    Brainstorm scenarios and draft and agree template statements

Live Crisis:

10.  Fact find, speak the truth, but act fast
11.  Don’t let an information vacuum take control away from you
12.  Field the right person – match seniority with seriousness of situation
13.  Say sorry, if you can
14.  Choose your words carefully – demonstrate CAR (concern, action, remedy)
15.  Stay open, keep your voice in the story, positively
16.  Ensure consistent messages across all channels and brief the full team
17.  Always put the victim first
18.  Move on sensitively – consider suspending advertising for example
19.  Rebuild trust and reassure – show that action promised has been taken
20.  Be positive again – move the narrative on

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PLMR’s crisis communications experience is second to none, and includes pre-emptive and reactive work across traditional and social media channels. We work with a range of organisations to offer critical communication support when they are faced with difficult and challenging scenarios.