Definition of Crisis Communication

Crisis communication is the process of managing and delivering information during an emergency or unforeseen event that could potentially harm an organization’s reputation, credibility, or financial stability. It involves the development of a strategic response plan and timely communication through various digital channels to address the situation effectively. The primary goal of crisis communication is to minimize damage, maintain transparency, and restore stakeholders’ trust in the organization.


The phonetics of the keyword “Crisis Communication” can be represented as: /ˈkraɪsɪs kəˌmjuːnɪˈkeɪʃən/

Key Takeaways

  1. Be timely and transparent: In a crisis, it is crucial to address the situation as quickly and openly as possible to maintain trust with your audience.
  2. Consistency is key: Ensure that your messages are consistent across different platforms, and involve all relevant stakeholders to deliver a unified response.
  3. Monitor and adapt: Keep a close eye on how your message is being received, and be prepared to adjust your communication strategy as the situation evolves.

Importance of Crisis Communication

Crisis Communication is a crucial aspect of digital marketing because it represents an organization’s ability to manage and respond effectively during potentially damaging events or situations.

These events could include negative publicity, data breaches, or product failures, among others.

Proactive crisis communication strategy helps mitigate the potential damage to a company’s reputation, allowing the organization to regain control of the narrative and maintain brand image and trust.

By effectively communicating with stakeholders, customers, and the public during a crisis, companies can exhibit transparency, accountability, and commitment to resolving challenges and rebuilding goodwill.

In a fast-paced digital world where every incident can spread quickly, the right crisis communication plan demonstrates responsiveness, responsibility, and empathy, essential factors in preserving a brand’s long-term credibility and trustworthiness.


Crisis communication is a strategic component of digital marketing that focuses primarily on mitigating the detrimental impacts of unforeseen events on a brand’s reputation and maintaining stakeholder trust. The purpose of crisis communication is to proactively address issues that could potentially harm a company’s image, credibility, or customer base.

With the digital age amplifying the speed at which news travels, organizations must be fully equipped to handle any crisis that arises, be it a product recall, negative public sentiment, or a sudden shift in market dynamics. By crafting and disseminating accurate and timely messages, businesses can navigate through difficult situations and minimize any long-term implications on their reputation or revenue.

Effective crisis communication is essential for preserving and strengthening relationships with various stakeholders, such as consumers, employees, investors, and the general public. Utilizing multiple digital channels, such as social media, email newsletters, and the company’s website, enables businesses to deliver their message promptly and control the narrative to respond to situations effectively.

Through transparency and genuine empathy, companies can express accountability and show commitment to resolving issues, appeasing customers and protecting their brand image. Ultimately, crisis communication serves as a defensive strategy to safeguard a company’s market position, customer loyalty, and stakeholder trust amidst challenging circumstances.

Examples of Crisis Communication

Johnson & Johnson – Tylenol Cyanide Poisoning (1982): One of the most well-known examples of crisis communication in the pre-digital age is the Tylenol cyanide poisoning case. In 1982, seven people in Chicago died after ingesting Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules that were laced with potassium cyanide. Johnson & Johnson quickly responded by initiating a nationwide recall of all Tylenol products, setting up hotline numbers to answer consumer inquiries, and launching a public relations campaign to reassure the public about the safety of their products. This response not only mitigated the potential damage to the brand but also set the standard for crisis communication.

American Red Cross – Rogue Tweet (2011): In 2011, an employee of the American Red Cross accidentally sent a personal tweet through the organization’s official account, which read: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.” The American Red Cross swiftly deleted the tweet and issued an apology: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” Their light-hearted and humble response helped to humanize the organization, build trust and prevent any negative impact on its reputation. Additionally, the brewery that was mentioned in the tweet, Dogfish Head, capitalized on the opportunity to raise money for the Red Cross by encouraging fans to donate.

United Airlines – Forced Passenger Removal (2017): In 2017, United Airlines faced a severe crisis when a video of a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight went viral on social media. The passenger, Dr. David Dao, suffered a broken nose, lost two teeth, and sustained a concussion from the incident. United’s initial response, which focused on following procedure and describing the passenger as “disruptive and belligerent,” caused widespread public backlash, and their stock price dropped dramatically. In later statements, United CEO Oscar Munoz expressed his apologies and took full responsibility for the incident. The airline also implemented new policies to prevent such situations in the future, including offering up to $10,000 to passengers who voluntarily give up their seats. Despite these efforts, the United Airlines brand faced significant damage due to the initial handling of the crisis.

FAQ: Crisis Communication

What is crisis communication?

Crisis communication is the process of managing the flow of information during an emergency or unexpected event. It involves sharing accurate and timely information with stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the public, to minimize potential harm and protect the organization’s reputation.

Why is crisis communication important?

Crisis communication is crucial because it helps organizations manage emergencies effectively, minimize potential damage, minimize the spread of misinformation, and maintain trust with stakeholders. Effective crisis communication can prevent loss of customers, damage to the organization’s reputation, and reduce legal or financial implications.

What are the key elements of an effective crisis communication plan?

An effective crisis communication plan includes the following elements: a clear chain of command, predefined roles and responsibilities, communication channels for internal and external messages, a process for gathering and verifying information, a means for monitoring public reactions, pre-approved message templates, and a system for evaluating the effectiveness of the plan.

Who should be involved in crisis communication?

A crisis communication team typically consists of individuals from various departments, such as PR, corporate communications, legal, HR, and operations. The team should be led by a designated crisis communication leader, who oversees the overall response strategy and ensures consistent messaging across all communication channels.

How should organizations communicate with the media during a crisis?

During a crisis, organizations should be transparent, truthful, and timely when communicating with the media. They should designate a spokesperson who is well-trained in media relations to provide regular updates, address questions, and share accurate information. It’s essential to keep the media informed, correct any misinformation promptly, and maintain a collaborative relationship to ensure the organization’s perspective is heard and understood.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Reputation Management
  • Damage Control
  • Proactive Communication
  • Public Relations
  • Social Media Monitoring

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