There’s an old saying about crisis communications: “A crisis never happens between nine and 5 on a weekday.” Crisis and reputational issues by their nature are unpredictable. With the advent of social media, a seemingly small issue can quickly spiral into an emergency. Effective crisis management requires careful coordination, meticulous monitoring and a swift response.

Communicating in a crisis may be one of the most difficult communications tactics. Any and all communications are highly scrutinized. Any misstep in a response to employees or the public can create more challenges or crisis issues. Companies and those responding to a crisis in real-time must have the right crisis management tool and planning in place.

What Is Crisis Management?

Crisis management and crisis communications cover a wide umbrella of reputation issues that can happen to a company, business or individual. Nearly all crisis issues have a negative impact on the business or person they are targeting. Many traditional crises include:

  • A political scandal
  • Negative media coverage stemming from an investigative news story
  • Class action lawsuit or legal action for alleged wrongdoing
  • A viral social media or internet post

For many, the risk around reputation issues depends on their industry and focus. Publicly traded companies could lose stock value or senior leaders could be fired. Congress could call hearings to demand CEOs or whistleblowers testify about reputational challenges. Political crises could mean the end of a political career, or investigation by law enforcement or government ethics committee. For those in healthcare, a cybersecurity breach could result in HIPPA violations, fines, investigations and a lack of public trust.

Crisis management determines how a business or person responds to a perceived threat. These plans can include everything from a simple statement on social media to building a crisis response team and monitoring a possible threat to the company or customer.

Crisis Communications Case Studies

There are many examples of crisis communications case studies that received public attention. Of course, the outcomes of these incidents vary widely. Learn more about successful crisis communications below.

Johnson & Johnson Tylenol Recall

In 1982, seven people died after taking Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide. Johnson & Johnson immediately recalled 31 million bottles of Tylenol, established a toll-free consumer hotline, and worked closely with the media to provide transparent information. The company’s quick and transparent actions were a positive example of rebuilding public trust.

Airbnb’s Response to a Host’s Ransacked Home

In 2011, an Airbnb host’s home was vandalized and burglarized by a guest. Initially, Airbnb faced criticism for their slow response. However, they then revamped their policies, offering a $50,000 guarantee for damages and improving their customer service. These measures helped reassure users and improve Airbnb’s reputation of safety and customer care.

Starbucks’ Response to Racial Bias Incident

In 2018, two African American men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a friend, sparking accusations of racial bias. Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for racial bias training, apologized to the men, and engaged in a public discussion about the issue. While the incident was damaging, Starbucks’ proactive and sincere response was seen as a positive step towards addressing systemic issues. 

There are also a few high profile examples of companies failing at their crisis communications response.

BP Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion led to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. BP’s response was seen as slow and inadequate. CEO Tony Hayward made several controversial statements, such as “I’d like my life back,” which were perceived as insensitive. The poor handling of the crisis resulted in significant reputational damage and financial loss for BP.

United Airlines Passenger Dragging Incident

In 2017, a passenger was forcibly removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight. Several viral videos showed the passenger being dragged off the plane. Initally, United blamed the passenger and evaded responsibility, leading to widespread public outrage. United faced severe backlash, a drop in stock prices, and long-term reputational damage.

Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Ad

A Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner was accused of trivializing social justice movements. It was widely criticized for being tone-deaf in 2017. Pepsi quickly pulled the ad and issued an apology. However, the initial release showed a lack of awareness and sensitivity to current social issues. The incident highlighted the importance of understanding social context, and Pepsi faced significant criticism for the misstep. 

Why Have a Crisis Management Tool?

Crisis management tools are crucial to effectively handle unforeseen emergencies. These tools enable real-time monitoring of public sentiment and media coverage. They allow organizations to respond to emerging issues and maintain control over the narrative. Crisis management tools also facilitate comprehensive planning and preparedness, helping organizations identify vulnerabilities and develop robust response strategies. Overall, crisis management tools minimize disruption to operations and maintain organizational stability.

There are many types of crisis management tools, each with a specified use case. These include:

Data analytics tools provide valuable insights into key data points. They enable informed decision-making and strategic adjustments in response to evolving situations.

Collaboration and documentation tools enhance team coordination. They ensure that all members are aligned and working towards common goals.

Training and simulation tools prepare employees for real-life scenarios. These tools boost confidence and effectiveness in crisis response.

Legal and compliance tools help manage regulatory risks. They help ensure that the organization’s actions comply with relevant laws and standards.

Crisis management tools ensures that organizations can respond quickly, transparently, and effectively. Effective crisis response helps organizations safeguard their reputation, maintain stakeholder trust, and ensure business continuity amidst challenging circumstances.

Key Considerations in Your Crisis Management Tool

Crisis management tools and plans should have one goal: helping a company or individual effectively manage a crisis. There are several factors to consider when selecting a crisis management tool. This includes:

Ease of Use

Teams should be able to use and engage the crisis management tool in real time. Access to or management of the tool should sit across more than one department to ensure adequate coverage or access.

Clear Decisionmakers

When managing a crisis, speed will be key. Any crisis management tool should have a clear decisionmaker who has the final say.


Any crisis management tool should have a form of measurement to analyze the crisis response. Without any measurement, it’s difficult to analyze whether a response has it’s intended effect on key audiences.

Streamlined Communications

Pushing out or compiling communications should be streamlined in a crisis management tool. Since multiple audiences will need to be contacted at once, it’s important to consider a tool that can help compile these communications.

Other key considerations include:

  • Transparency: Openly sharing information and being honest about the situation.
  • Speed: Responding quickly to manage the narrative and control misinformation.
  • Responsibility: Taking accountability and showing empathy towards those affected.
  • Consistency: Providing clear and consistent messages across all communication channels.
  • Preparedness: Having a crisis communication plan in place before a crisis occurs.

Types of Crisis Management Tools

Crisis management tools are essential to effectively navigate emergencies and mitigate their impact. These tools can be broadly categorized into a few subgroups, including:

  • Monitoring
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Incident management
  • Data analytics
  • Collaboration
  • Training
  • Legal compliance

Monitoring tools track public sentiment and media coverage. Examples of monitoring communities include Hootsuite for social media and Meltwater for media.

Communication tools ensure timely and accurate dissemination of information. Examples include Slack for internal communications and Everbridge for mass notifications.

Planning and preparedness tools help organizations identify potential risks and develop response strategies. Examples of such tools include Resolver for risk assessment and Noggin for crisis management planning.

Next, incident management platforms include tools like JIRA Service Management. These platforms facilitate the coordination of response efforts.

Data analytics tools like Tableau visualize trends to inform decisionmaking.

Collaboration and documentation tools enhance team coordination. Examples include SharePoint for document management and Trello for task management.

Training tools include CrisisSim for simulations and Coursera for e-learning. These tools prepare employees for real-life scenarios.

Lastly, legal compliance tools ensure regulatory adherence and manage legal risks. An example of such a tool is NAVEX Global.

By integrating these tools, organizations can better prepare for, respond to, and recover from crises. Crisis management tools aid in maintaining stakeholder trust and ensuring business continuity.

Plural for Crisis Management

Policy tracking during a crisis may be important for companies monitoring a big impact. Lawmakers may read about negative media coverage or hear about a company crisis from the public. They might introduce legislation, hold a hearing or call senior leaders to come testify about the challenges. Staying up-to-date and learning about updates in real-time is key.

Top organizations trust Plural as a key component of their crisis management efforts. With Plural, you’ll:

  • Access superior public policy data 
  • Be the first to know about new bills and changes in bill status
  • Streamline your day with seamless organization features
  • Harness the power of time-saving AI tools to gain insights into individual bills and the entire legislative landscape
  • Keep everyone on the same page with internal collaboration and external reporting all in one place