The Need for Speed in the Digital Age of Crisis Management


Long-time and highly respected crisis expert Gerard Braud has a golden rule for any crisis communications plans that he authors.

Every plan directs that a statement MUST be issued in one hour or less of a crisis going public.

The way that Gerard achieves this is to have ready boilerplate statements which he calls, ‘The First Critical Statement’. Each can be edited in three minutes and includes basic details, avoids speculation about the cause of the crisis and shows that the organization is responding and will share more information when it is known.

Gerard explores the need for speed in digital age crisis response in his chapter in RockDove’s recently published eBook, ‘The New Rules of Crisis Management’.

Gerard cites several examples of real crises where the need for speed was not heeded:

  • Virginia Tech

A tragic day during which 32 people were killed. It was more than five hours before the University called a news conference. By default, student bystanders, whose video footage was broadcast by CNN, become the university’s spokespeople.

  • Miracle on the Hudson

US Airways flight 1549 makes an emergency landing on the Hudson River in New York City. The first image of the plane is tweeted by Janis Krum, a passenger on a nearby ferry. By default, Krum becomes the airline’s spokesperson.

  • Louisiana chemical plant explosion

A chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana, explodes killing two people and injuring 114. A worker fleeing the explosion, turns and takes a snapshot of the fireball rising in the sky which he then posts to a newly created Facebook page. More than 4,000 visitors ‘like’ the page before the company issues its first news release more than three hours after the explosion.

  • Shooting deaths of three policemen

A gunman kills three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Two eyewitnesses stream the events on social media sites. Yet it is five hours before an official news conference and no updates are posted to law enforcement websites.

  • United Airlines & Dr Dao

United Airlines pulled a passenger, Dr Dao, off a plane in Chicago. Other passengers take video which quickly goes viral. According to Fortune magazine, United’s stock drops by $1.4 billion dollars in the immediate aftermath of the videos going public.

From these and other examples of what happens when organizations ignore the need for speed in their crisis response, Gerard draws three lessons for any organization in its crisis response:

  1. When you are slow to communicate, you damage your reputation and revenue.
  2. You must make decisions on a clear and sunny day that will dictate how you will respond on your darkest day.
  3. You must write news release templates on a clear and sunny day so they can be quickly edited and used on your darkest day.

Read more about Gerard’s guide on the need for speed in the new rules of crisis management by getting your free copy of the ebook today.