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Nine Steps in Crisis Communication Implementation

This information is for historic and reference purposes only.  Content has not been updated since the last reviewed date at the bottom of this page.
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The first few hours of any event are usually chaotic. This is a time of high uncertainty where a quick response can be critical. A crisis communication plan is designed to make some initial communication decisions before a crisis happens, so your organization can promptly respond and rapidly adapt. While every event is unique, some crisis communication steps are universal and can help your organization effectively manage most emergencies.

Step 1: Verify the Situation

Situational awareness is the first step in an informed response. Although information will be scarce, get the facts and try to verify them with more than one credible source.

Step 2: Conduct Notifications

Notify all necessary response points of contact, and keep a record of who was notified, when, how, and if they were reached or require follow-up.

Step 3: Conduct Crisis Assessment (Activate Crisis Plan)

Continually assess new information, the severity of the situation, the target audience, and what information should be communicated.

Step 4: Organize Assignments Quickly

Quickly assign responders specific responsibilities, dividing these assignments based on immediate and ongoing issues. Coordinate with appropriate response partners to address all communication needs.

Step 5: Prepare Information and Obtain Approvals

Coordinate development of activities and messages, rapidly sharing and clearing information within your organization for timely release.

Step 6: Release Information through Prearranged Channels

Identify audiences and communication channels prior to a crisis, so information can be disseminated rapidly during an emergency.

Step 7: Obtain Feedback and Conduct Crisis Evaluation

As soon as possible after a crisis starts, conduct an evaluation of your organization’s response. Feedback from key audiences and coverage from media can inform messages and allow problems to be addressed.

Step 8: Conduct Public Education

Offer educational opportunities to improve public understanding, support, and preparation for future emergencies.

Step 9: Monitor Events

Monitor communication activities on an ongoing bases—including media, social media, and responder interactions—to determine how to improve messages and the general communication strategy.

Planning is the most important step to ensure an effective response using Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC). It takes considerable time and effort to develop and maintain a crisis communication plan. Plans should not try to answer all the questions or determine all the decisions, but they should reveal a process. Understanding the features of a plan, as well as the types of information to include and the kinds of questions to ask, are vital to a response’s success.

crisis chart

For more information on CERC visit our website and check out the CERC manual. You can also read previous CERC Corners.

Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail cercrequest@cdc.gov. Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.

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