Crisis Communications in an Uncertain World

Crisis Communications in an Uncertain World

To say things are unsettled in the world right now is an understatement. While we’re trying to keep up with the latest news, particularly abroad, there are a lot of considerations of how foreign affairs impact our integrated communications work. Some questions to ponder:

  • Should we go dark on social for maximum sensitivity?
  • Should we pause advertising to ensure external audience messaging is appropriate?
  • Should we make a statement, if it’s relevant, of support or denouncement of current events?


Crisis communications are complex but having a solid, proactive and reactive plan is key. Take, for example, an Applebee’s advertisement that ran during coverage on CNN during a split-screen air raid.

  • The Twitter-verse blew up condemning Applebee’s, condemning CNN, and everything in between.
  • CNN was then publicly criticized for airing (any) ads surrounding such a series broadcast.
  • Applebee’s made a statement, and people had feelings.

Anyone in the advertising business knows the ad was likely part of an ad buy from quite some time ago. And you can’t control breaking news.


This is a good reminder to prepare for the inevitable crisis, especially for situations that are entirely out of your organization’s hands. We recommend:

  • Preparing a crisis plan so you have the foundation of messages, key spokespeople, knowing who can handle message dissemination on all (appropriate) platforms, and more. These plans should include detailed scenarios to prepare for likely instances of crisis.
  • Always responding and swiftly, to (at minimum) acknowledging the situation, letting your key audiences know that you’re looking into it/investigating/working with authorities, or whatever the proper first step is.
  • Remaining transparent, sharing what you know and being honest about areas you’re still looking to get answers/information. This is the only way to maintain trust with your key audiences.

While every media buyer I know is thankful they weren’t caught in the middle of this situation, it double downed the importance of preparation.

Are you interested in learning more about our crisis communications capabilities? Contact us today.

Megan Bonelli is an Account Supervisor based in metro Detroit. She provides project management, media relations services and more for government and automotive accounts.

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