Crisis Communication

Saylor Academy


Important information

  • Course
  • Online

This course is designed for practical applications of crisis communication principles. This course will explain what communication problems look like, the different phases of crises, how to deal with them, and how to anticipate crises as part of conducting effective public relations program. It will also explain the role of a crisis communication team and teach you how to write a crisis communication plan. Most importantly, it will emphasize the value and importance of using social media in a crisis communication plan and in marketing. Through case studies, you will examine best practices that have worked for others. A diverse selection of resource materials will help guide and supplement your understanding for practical application. This course will cover certain crisis cases, including BP's oil rig explosion, a Wendy's customer's false claims, and a UPS employee strike. After completing this course, you may also be interested in conducting your own research to find examples of other crisis cases, such as: Carnival's Costa Concordia cruise ship, Lance Armstrong and the Livestrong Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Penn State, or Toyota's 2010 recalls. These cases will give you an appreciation and understanding of the necessity to have a well-thought out crisis communication management system. The overall goal of the course is to help develop your skills and abilities as part of a crisis management team to help an organization or company develop a credible and tested communication plan to effectively respond to a crisis.

Important information

Where and when

Starts Location


What you'll learn on the course

Crisis Communication

Course programme

  • Unit 1: Crisis Communication IntroductionThe resources assigned for Unit 1 will give you the basic framework for understanding crisis communication and its application in a professional business environment. This unit will discuss what crisis communication involves, types of crisis and crisis responses, and crisis communication management. By explaining how crisis communication relates to organizational communication and then looking at problems that lead to crisis communication, you can learn the definition and principles of crisis communication and can develop a deeper understanding of its value in today’s market place. This unit will also provide a brief introduction to the evolution of using social media during crisis. Later in the course, Unit 3 will expand on the discussion of the value of using social media in crisis communication management.Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 2: Preparing for a CrisisUnit 2 will provide you with specific steps for preparing for a crisis. This unit begins with an overview that explores how you can use a SWOT analysis - looking at strengthens, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats - to assess how a company operates within its environment. As part of business strategic planning, this unit covers setting goals and objectives that can also be applied to crisis contingency planning. This includes learning the basics of preparing a written crisis communication plan that has been coordinated both internally and externally for a specific organization or company. The length of the plan depends on the type and size of the organization, but it should include information regarding the crisis management team - team members' names, titles, phone numbers, and responsibilities for helping execute the plan. Effective plans should also identify the spokesperson, have pre-developed key messages, and sample news releases. The plan should also document media training, other operational training, lessons learned, and best practices as appropriate. As an example of crisis communication planning, you will watch a lecture that provides a look into how the United States' Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expanded its crisis management team to include a monthly think tank that is open to the public for participation and comment. Additionally, you will learn about the various roles employees, leaders, and managers play in crisis management. Because each organization or company is unique in its size and has a specific mission, the roles should be modified appropriately. For example, a large government office may have multiple public affairs specialists providing information to a central public affairs officer who serves as the key spokesperson. Each of the subordinate public affairs specialists may be assigned to work internal, community relations or media relations areas as part of the overall crisis communication plan. Other management roles may involve coordinating information for news releases with other private and government agencies. In this unit, you will learn how a press conference should be conducted and how the 24/7 digital news environment affects the need for quick and accurate responses to news media inquiries. Depending on the type of crisis, it may require roles and responsibilities involving physical and personal security, personnel issues handled by human resources, legal counsel for liabilities, and medical liaisons coordinating information on injuries and deaths. All of these roles help management make responsible decisions that will help minimize damage and harm as well as will help in the assessment of when and how quickly the organization can resume normal daily business operations.Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 3: Using Social Media During a CrisisIt is no secret that using social media during a crisis is a must. There have been recent crisis events, such as a natural disaster, where national and regional government emergency response officials have used social media, such as Twitter, to keep people informed. Regardless of whether you use social media to quickly help diffuse an issue or provide real time information during search and rescue efforts, you should learn how to best use it. This means it is also important to properly integrate social media into the overall strategic communication plans of businesses and organizations. This unit also profiles a successful social media campaign, explains how to protect your social media channel, and provides perspectives from online social media communicators.Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 4: Designing a Crisis Communication Plan (CCP)There is no one size fits all when it comes to crisis communication plans (CCP). This is true whether you are designing a CCP for a government agency, nonprofit organization, or private company. However, there are some key elements that each CCP is expected to include in the broad terms of pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis actions. When spelled out in the CCP, you want to be sure to address pre-crisis preparations, safety, notifications of key staff, listing the crisis communication team (CCT), their functions and their contact information, situation assessments, developing key messages, media releases, and communication updates. There is always a need to address post-crisis actions such as evaluating how the CCT performed and lessons learned before starting the cycle again to prepare for the next crisis. In this unit, you will learn about the basic components of the crisis communication plan and how to develop a CCP in a digital format. Regardless of the format, the CCP should be coordinated among all participating agencies and organizations. It should be tested or practiced to see what works and what does not work so modifications can be made before you really need to use it.'Page: 1
  • Unit 5: Developing Strategic MessagesUnit 5 will focus on how to use key messages to tell your company's story and how to incorporate key strategic messages in online and traditional media tools. This unit will also discuss how to help managers communicate timely, effective, and truthful messages while adhering to sound business principles. 

    Imagine you work for a company that is trying to negotiate with its union employees for their routine 4 to 6-year contract renewal. Imagine you are the public relations spokesperson for the second largest company in the United States and there are few trained spokespersons at your company, including you. What starts out to be a routine renewal labor union contract renewal turns bad. As the spokesperson for your company, what do you do? In 1997, a situation like this occurred when UPS employees were negotiating their contracts. When talks failed to produce an agreement that provided more job security through full-time employment and less part-time employment, without warning, the Teamster's Union announces that its UPS employees would go on strike. This resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenues and expenses. Approximately two weeks later, in hindsight and with the help of the case study authors, management reviewed how effective planning and message development could have resulted in a better outcome. In this unit, you will find out more about crisis management while reading the UPS case study.

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  • Optional Course Evaluation Survey

    Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course at the link below. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course.

  • Final Exam