Crisis Communication

Learn the necessary skills to develop a credible and tested communication plan to effectively respond to a crisis.
3.2 (48 ratings) Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a
course's star rating by considering a number of different factors
such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the
likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
5,630 students enrolled
Start Learning Now
  • Lectures 48
  • Contents Video: 2 hours
    Other: 7 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
Wishlisted Wishlist

How taking a course works


Find online courses made by experts from around the world.


Take your courses with you and learn anywhere, anytime.


Learn and practice real-world skills and achieve your goals.

About This Course

Published 1/2014 English

Course Description

Imagine you wake up one morning and read a news flash on your smartphone or other mobile device that a major fire threatens your office building. You immediately remember that your organization recently practiced its quarterly disaster preparedness exercise. You know what to do, who to contact, and the location of the alternate office to use in case of an emergency. You are concerned, but you are confident that you have a plan in place. As a key member of the organization’s crisis communication team (CMT), you know your role. You help management immediately prepare a news release and update the company’s website with factual information on the who, what, when, and where details of the event. You use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, and traditional media, such as radio and TV, to inform internal stakeholder groups (e.g., senior leadership, employees, and investors) and external stakeholder groups (e.g., customers, clients, local officials, and the general public) with appropriate key messages. During times of crisis, the public relations specialist helps management communicate that sound, safe, and responsible actions are being used to protect and defend the organization from harm or damage.

Crisis communication is one of the many specialized areas or functions of public relations. This course will specifically focus on the use of crisis communication to protect and defend a company or organization facing a problem or challenge that threatens to harm its brand or reputation. As a sudden and unexpected serious event, a crisis can fall into four categories: acts of God, mechanical problems, human error, and management decision or indecision. You may recall examples of crisis in news media coverage of killer earthquakes and tsunamis, grounded airplanes, stranded cruise ship passengers, and senior government officials or CEOs who are fired or asked to resign following adulterous affairs. If you want to learn to become a professional public relations specialist, it is important to have a basic understanding of the important role public relations has in helping guide a company or organization through a crisis or serious event.

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.

What are the requirements?

  • Have access to a computer;
  • Continuous broadband Internet access;
  • Ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);
  • Ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;
  • Ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);
  • Competency in the English language;
  • Knowledge about the basics of public relations and feel comfortable in writing and producing public relations pieces for traditional news media and social media.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Explain what crisis communication involves;
  • Describe and identify different types of crisis;
  • Describe the crisis management stages;
  • Explain what crisis communication problems look like;
  • Identify four types of crisis responses;
  • Explain how to anticipate and make advanced preparations for a crisis;
  • Describe the role of a crisis management team (CMT);
  • Explain how to use social media to deal with a crisis;
  • Explain the role of crisis communication when crafting strategic messages to a target audience;
  • Describe the risks of using social media;
  • Explain why social media is useful during a crisis, and describe how to use social media during a crisis;
  • Describe the function of a crisis communication plan (CCP);
  • Explain how to design and prepare a CCP;
  • Explain how to test a CCP;
  • Explain how to practice writing key messages that tell your company story;
  • Explain how to incorporate key messages in online and traditional media tools;
  • Describe how to help management communicate truthful messages; and
  • Describe how to communicate to various stakeholder groups.

What is the target audience?

  • Public Relations Professionals

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: What Is Crisis Communication?

In this video, Rick Kelly, Director of Crisis Communications at Triad Strategies, defines crisis communication and discusses the importance of developing a crisis communications plan.

13 pages

This reading addresses reasons why crisis communication is important. Note that it is not necessary to read the other chapters referenced and linked in this reading.


In this lecture, Dyer discusses how Timothy Coombs, a noted crisis communication author and researcher, looks at defining crisis and how management and employees often have different perceptions about what dictates a crisis.

Section 2: Types of Crisis
15 pages

This section will help you understand the various types of crisis that can occur and that should be considered and customized for various organizational crisis management planning.


Listen to Samuel Dyer’s continued discussion on Timothy Coombs’s book about different types of crisis, beginning with natural disasters, which are also referred to as acts of God. You will understand the various types of crisis that can occur and should be planned for by various organizations. He also shares that 44% of organizations still do not have a dedicated crisis management team.

Section 3: Crisis Management Stages

Watch this video presentation for a better understanding of crisis communication as a business or organization problem.

Section 4: Four Types of Crisis Response
3 pages

Read this article to learn how the four types of corporate crisis responses affect the perception of the company and the CEO differently.

Section 5: The Evolution of Using Social Media in Disaster Response
2 pages

Read this article to learn about how social networks have changed everything in public relations. The readings in this subunit will help prepare you for the material in Unit 3.

2 pages

Read this article and watch the embedded video to learn about social media’s growing application for disaster response.

29 pages

Read this document for an introduction to social media strategy that has application to both non-profit and other organizations.

Section 6: Assessment 1
10 questions

Match the scenario with the type of crisis. Then choose the applicable crisis communication response strategy that was used to help manage each scenario.

Section 7: How to Prepare for a Crisis: Crisis Communication Plan
11 pages

Read Section 2 of Chapter 6 on pages 228–236 to learn the steps for crisis planning. Be sure to take notes as you read. Pay special attention to real world crisis events, including Wendy’s handling of a woman’s claim of finding a fingertip in her bowl of chili. Another example discussed in this reading is BP’s oil rig explosion in the Gulf Coast and how CEO Tony Hayward responded.

Complete exercise 2 (AACSB) Analysis on pages 236 and 237. This exercise requires you to role play as the CEO of a large company and to write the core values you would want the employees of your company to demonstrate. Post your response to the exercise to the PRSM107 Course Discussion Forum as well as review and respond to one or two other students’ posts.

Reading this section, completing the exercise, and responding on the course discussion forum should take approximately 3 hours.


Learn the basics of a crisis communication plan approach for business and organizations.

Activity: Discussion Board
Section 8: What Is a Crisis Management Team (CMT)?
4 pages

Timothy Coombs’s “Crisis Management Communications”

Section 9: Case Study: How Does FEMA’s Think Tank Operate?
Video - What Is the FEMA Think Tank?
1 page

Get a basic understanding of how the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses the think tank forum to enhance the overall effectiveness of its crisis response operations.


Listen to this audio recording of part of FEMA’s think tank conference call on February 6, 2013. Also, download the transcript of the full conference call, and skim the transcript for an overview of this session. This audio recording provides a sample of what goes on in this type of meeting. The topic focuses on innovations and solutions to emergency management.

Section 10: Your Role in Crisis Management
13 pages

Get a better understanding of your role as a public relations specialist in helping your organization use best practices during a crisis and in crisis management. This reading is also an effective lead into the next subunit, “Dealing with News Media.”

Section 11: Dealing with News Media
8 pages

This lecture will refresh your understanding of the importance of always adequately preparing for news media encounters regardless of the format and whether you are communicating during a crisis situation or non-crisis situation.

Section 12: Activity
Discussion Board
Section 13: Assessment
Teamwork and Collaboration during a Crisis
10 questions
Section 14: Why Social Media Is Useful During a Crisis
8 pages

This lecture will explain how trends in social media affect the availability, use, and appeal of social media as effective communication during a crisis.

2 pages

This article by Dave Fleet discusses the benefits of using social media, such as Twitter, during a crisis.

Section 15: The Risks of Using Social Media
8 pages

This article by Jayne Navarre provides insight into company losses that occur from social media mishaps and security breaches. This article should get you thinking about the inherent risks businesses assume when they incorporate social media into their day-to-day operations.

2 pages

Learn how to avoid social networking risk that could interrupt and compromise your Internet and social media channel services.

Section 16: Social Media Marketing

Amy Bermar and Corinne Federici’s “Avoiding Social Media Suicide: Optimizing PR”

Emerging best practices for reaching and engaging blogger, reporters, and other influencers to target your messages.

Interacting with Your Customers
10 pages
The Old Spice Social Media Campaign by the Numbers
4 pages
Section 17: Effective Use of Social Media
3 pages

Learn how a government agency used a contest to conduct a social networking experiment to show how quickly large groups can be mobilized in support of a cause.


This lecture will illustrate how a government agency in Australia has effectively integrated social media into emergency service procedures. Martin Anderson is the Digital Media Manager of the County Fire Authority.


The IABC in cooperation with ZN hosted a workshop last October on the use of social media in crisis communication. ZN captured the insights from Philippe Borremans the Chief Social Media Officer at the Van Marcke Group, Caroline Sabriel who is an expert in crisis communication and Aurélie Valtat who is responsible for online communications for the European Council.

This first interview for IABC's workshop is with Aurélie Valtat who is responsible for online communications for the European Council. Listen to her insights on social media and how she believes it should be integrated in your organization.


The IABC in cooperation with ZN hosted a workshop last October on the use of social media in crisis communication. ZN captured the insights from Philippe Borremans the Chief Social Media Officer at the Van Marcke Group, Caroline Sabriel who is an expert in crisis communication and Aurélie Valtat who is responsible for online communications for the European Council.

This second interview for IABC's workshop on the use of social media in crisis communication is with Caroline Sabriel. Caroline is an expert in crisis communication with over 20 years' experience in risk and crisis management for corporate and public affairs. Listen to her thoughts on the role of social media in organizations today and her list of tips.


The IABC in cooperation with ZN hosted a workshop last October on the use of social media in crisis communication. ZN captured the insights from Philippe Borremans the Chief Social Media Officer at the Van Marcke Group, Caroline Sabriel who is an expert in crisis communication and Aurélie Valtat who is responsible for online communications for the European Council. Listen to this first interview with Mr. Borremans on the importance of including social media in your organization.

Section 18: Assessment
Critique How the American Red Cross Used Social Media during Hurricane Sandy
12 questions
Section 19: What Type of Information Does a CCP Contain?
12 pages

Learn what a CCP is and to understand what a complete and detailed crisis communication plan might look like, depending on the nature of the organization or company.

2 pages

Learn how to use a wiki to invigorate a crisis communication plan. Also, click the arrow pointing to “newer” for a second blog article titled “Dark sites, blogs & crisis communications” by the same author, Philippe Borremans.

Section 20: How to Design a Crisis Communication Plan
5 pages

In this lecture, you will learn about what type of information to include when developing a CCP. This reading includes a checklist for designing an effective crisis communication plan and reviews the characteristics of a crisis communication team.

Developing a Digital Communications Plan
22 pages
Activity: Discussion Board
1 page

Instructions: This assessment provides you with a hypothetical scenario to use in creating a brief crisis communication plan description. You should review the sample crisis communication plan in this section's reading, Crisis Communication Plan. With your hypothetical organization summary, you should be able to address the four key elements of a crisis communication plan in one to two pages. Once you have completed the assessment, check your answers against The Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Key to Creating a Crisis Communication Plan.”

Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Section 21: Testing a Crisis Communication Plan
2 pages

This lecture will show you how tabletop exercises are used to test crisis communication plans. This reading illustrates three scenarios:

1. a disgruntled employee starts a data center fire;
2. an explosion at a nearby chemical plant releases deadly toxins; and
3. a pandemic flu hits.

Section 22: Practice Writing Key Messages that Tell Your Company’s Story
7 pages

This reading will help you understand the importance of developing message strategies and how to develop them for crisis management.

2 pages

This lecture will help you understand the importance of developing message strategies and how to develop them for crisis management or marketing. This article includes a position statement and three supporting points.

3 pages

This lecture focuses on messages for marketing and highlights how to develop messages to achieve internal and external organizational goals.

Activity: Discussion Board
Section 23: Incorporate Key Messages Using Online and Traditional Media Tools
10 pages

This lecture includes 3 articles from NLC - Communication Workshop:

Keys to Media Relations Success

Television and Radio Interviews

New Media Tips

These will help you better understand your role with news media, what you can do to achieve an effective working relationship with the media, and tips for using traditional and new media.

Section 24: Help Management Communicate Truthful Messages
7 pages

This lecture explains what happens during a crisis, how to plan for a crisis, and how to use the ICE method to guide the actions of management and the crisis response team.

4 pages

This lecture will provide you with guidelines for ensuring management is ready to handle a crisis and also outlines specific business ethics that should be followed to ensure truthful disclosures.

Section 25: Communicate to Various Stakeholder Groups
18 pages

This lecture defines and prioritizes stakeholders and publics.

Section 26: Assessment
Helping Management Communicate with Various Stakeholder Groups
12 questions
Section 27: Final Exam
Final Exam

Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed

  • Loading
  • Loading
  • Loading

Instructor Biography

Saylor Academy, Nonprofit organization

The Saylor Academy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Washington, D.C., that empowers learners to set their own education goals, achieve mastery, and earn twenty-first century credentials within a rich network of peers, educators, and partners. Our students engage with expertly curated learning objects aligned to robust outcomes and assessments. The Academy is committed to advancing creative models of higher education that champion access and encourage students to own their education. Today, the Academy provides over 300 standard and college credit-aligned courses at the K-12, university, and career levels

Ready to start learning?
Start Learning Now