The Importance of Crisis Communication Plans

The recent rail disaster in Lac Megantic, Canada, has left the small farm town to pick up the pieces and deal with the deaths of at least 47 people. Critics of Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) have cited the rail company’s lax response to the tragedy as troubling, even more so with their inability to acknowledge their role in the crisis. What can companies do, in light of such crises, to effectively prepare for disaster? According to, the answer is developing an effective crisis communication plan.


In preparing for a crisis, a company should try to determine all possible scenarios and have responses ready to deliver to the public, their customers, and shareholders. And while they can’t foresee all possible disasters, having some basic responses ready and tailoring them to a crisis as it happens, allows companies to at least look like they have the situation in hand, even if they fully do not. They should make such preparation a part of their crisis communication plan, and then follow through.


When communicating, the company should have the best person for the role deliver the message. This is not always the senior officers, but more than likely someone they have appointed who excels in disaster response. Choosing someone with great communication skills is always better than picking the highest man on the totem pole to deliver a company’s response during a crisis.

Language can also play a role in crisis communication, or at least present a barrier to effectively getting the message across. Always make sure that whoever presents a company’s message speaks the local language.


Companies should communicate as soon as possible in a crisis, typically within hours of it happening. This allows them to control the message disseminated about the crisis. This should be done using all available media outlets, including social media. When communicating, companies should stick to the facts as they know them and refrain from speculation, especially in regards to timelines.


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