Crisis Management: Managing Public Communications

No one ever plans on a crisis happening but, just in case, you need to be prepared. Having a crisis management plan in place can help you avoid making costly mistakes and ensure that you handle the situation in the most effective way possible. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what goes into creating a successful crisis management plan and provide some tips for putting one together. Stay safe out there!

A crisis can happen at any time. I could be an unhappy client or even another attorney you met in court. To have an effective plan in place it’s critical to understand the pre-crisis, crisis management and response, and post-crisis stages. 

What is a Crisis Management Plan and Why do You Need One

Anyone who’s unhappy with you or even something you said can be the firestarter to a crisis. We see even big companies who have had their image, reputation, and client trust affected after the seeds of a crisis have been sowed. 


Being put in the spotlight like this is potentially harmful. Still, a good crisis management plan helps you avoid not only the damage to your reputation but also strengthen the way your current, former, and future clients feel about you.

When it comes to crisis management examples, two of the most famous ones are the ones involving Volkswagen and Johnson & Johnson.


This is the perfect example of a badly managed crisis. Back in 2015, Wolksvagen was accused of changing the engine controls to score better on the emission tests by the EPA.

The crisis was poorly handled. The PR wasn’t able to keep up with all the inconsistencies. As a result, people’s trust was harmed and many of them stated that they were disappointed. 

Johnson & Johnson 

In the ’80s, seven people died after taking Tylenol pills. An incident like this could greatly damage the company’s reputation. Instead, what happened was an example of how to deal with a crisis and even improve the company’s brand perception.

J&J quickly responded by spreading information about the incident to everyone who could be affected, in order to not get any other victims. They didn’t try to hide the truth and took immediate action.

Although it’s important to notice that every crisis is different and every organization has a unique brand guide. Considering this when creating a management plan is a mandatory step to success.

Types of Crises

Not every crisis will be caused by something you – or your firm – do. Be aware that often offline events can generate a crisis. 

Therefore, the first step of any crisis management plan is identifying the crisis or categories of risks. What could go wrong and make you wish you had a plan in place? Rumors, inappropriate behavior of someone in your crisis management team, an unhappy client complaining very publically about how you handled their case. 

When mapping the risks, be sure to think not only about the crisis you have already faced, there’s a lot you can learn from others’ experiences (even outside of the legal field).

Creating a Crisis Management Plan

A successful crisis management plan needs to be thoroughly defined in order to avoid chaos. This means having a team ready to come into action, map everything that could generate a crisis, understand each stage, and have a response ready for it.

According to Hubspot, there are 6 stages of a crisis. Thinking this way will make it easier for you to build your management plan.

You should never wait for a crisis to come to start taking action. The key is to pay attention to every sign that may indicate a crisis is coming. Make it part of the response team’s processes. This is the first step, warning.

It’s time to think about the worst thing that could happen. Think about all of the worst-case scenarios and how you can have a response plan in place to respond quickly to them.

Once the crisis occurs you are in the management stage. This means you’ll use the plan you have previously created in the response stage. The team took every action listed in the plan and now the crisis is left behind, things can come back to normal.

It’s worth mentioning that a plan is a work in progress. Add to your processes and work regularly to keep them updated.

Being caught unprepared to deal with a crisis can be harmful to your reputation and credibility. You don’t want to make a decision that can make the unhappy client even more upset. 

If you’d like to learn more about reputation management, read this other blog post. You can also book a strategy call and get our team working to avoid and deal with any crisis you may face.