First, Remain Calm: Tips for Today’s Crisis Managers


In a world full of instant communication and worldwide outreach, any business is a tweet away from full-on crisis mode. Whether it’s an internal blunder or broadcast to the masses, all organizations will undergo some sort of crisis over its lifespan.

Instead of waiting for a crisis to unfold and scrambling to figure out a response, develop a real-time plan of action now to minimize the damage when it’s all said and done.

Some Things Have Changed

In the 21st century, organizations can ill afford to be stuck in the ways of the past. Today, someone can ruin the reputation of an organization with one tweet faster than you can delete it. If you want to do more than just eke by, consider these tips for preventing and minimizing damage from a social media crisis:

  • Act Immediately. It’s crucial to track social media in real time, and to that end, there are countless software programs that allow crisis managers to monitor what the social world is saying about their organizations. It’s also important to have a reaction team ready to respond immediately. This is key to minimizing any cyber-attack before it gets too big to handle. The problem for business is that a social media crisis can happen in the middle of the night or after business hours. Good crisis managers will implement these monitors to minimize reputation damage immediately.
  • Implement a social media policy. Creating a social media policy helps protect organizations from employees who could purposely or inadvertently tarnish a company’s reputation. It can set parameters for crafting acceptable responses or establish an approval process for posts. While a formal policy can’t physically stop anyone from tweeting negatively, it could include harsh consequences for doing so.

But the Basics Are Still Important

While specific issues may have changed over the years, one thing remains the same: stick to the basics. Every good crisis manager knows that different crises take different twists and turns and are not all the same. Know your vulnerabilities, have a plan, and be prepared to take action with your assembled team.

  • Remain calm. This sounds cliché, but staying calm goes a long way while in crisis-mode. Many top executives will freeze up, causing company-wide stress in the process. As a crisis manager, even if you’re panicking on the inside, you should always appear to be the calmest person in the room. A calm, patient exterior is key to putting your internal team and public at ease and gaining their confidence.
  • Keep business rolling. It’s vital in these situations to assemble a team focused solely on the crisis while insisting on business-as-usual for other employees. Never let the organization go into gridlock because of a crisis.
  • Know the facts before speaking. This is an area in which so many crisis managers crack under pressure. This is also the time when crisis managers will have to solidify whether or not executives and other managers are telling the truth or giving complete information. At the same time, the press may be breathing down your organization’s neck, and you’ll have to tell them something, even if you don’t have all the information. In a bind, be sure to tell the public what you know and update them when new information becomes available.

You can get in front of any crisis situation by being prepared, being proactive, and being thoughtful and deliberate with what you say to the public.

Terry Hemeyer teaches crisis management at the University of Texas at Austin and Rice University and is the executive counsel to Pierpont Communications. Tyler Sumrall is an AAE with Pierpont Communications.


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily The University of Texas at Austin.

About The Author

Terry Hemeyer

Senior Lecturer, Department of Advertising, College of Communications, University of Texas at Austin

Professor Terry Hemeyer is one of the few public relations executives that have attained C-suite status beyond typical communications functions....

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