6 Principles of Crisis Communications From CDC (Plus Resource Materials)

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In crisis communication, more than any other facet of PR, planning is crucial; allowances must be made for various possibilities, and responses need to be deployed with utmost speed.

It may seem a daunting task to develop such plans, but if you have a set of underlying principles, you may find that your plans flow out of that foundation in a very natural way. In the PR News Crisis Management Guidebook, vol. 8, Jana Telfer, associate director for communication science at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has you covered from the principles down to the various materials the CDC has developed from them.

She writes:

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined a new field of communication—Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC)—that combines crisis communication and risk communication for use during emergencies.

CERC has been used in public health responses since 2001 to provide information that helps people make sound decisions to protect themselves and their families under narrow time constraints and with insufficient information.

It is built on six principles:

  1. Be first. The first source of communication often becomes the source against which all others are measured.
  2. Be right. Accuracy is critical to credibility.
  3. Be credible. Honesty is fundamental to maintaining trust.
  4. Express empathy. Emotion cannot be countered with facts. People must first know that their leaders care.
  5. Promote action. Giving people something specific to do restores a sense of control over out-of-control circumstances.
  6. Show respect. Lack of respect for a public in crisis undermines trust.

CERC resources are free and downloadable at: emergency.cdc.gov/cerc/resources/index.asp.

Order your copy of the PR News Crisis Management Guidebook

Follow Ian on Twitter: @ianwright0101