The Crisis Preparedness Checklist

ready lifeguard(Please note: This article is a companion piece to “Build a Measurement Dashboard Now & Survive a Crisis Later.” They are designed to be used together so you’ll be well-prepared to weather any crisis).

Use the following checklist to prepare for, survive, and thrive when a crisis hits:

Step 1: Define your key stakeholders.

Depending on the nature of the crisis (self-inflicted, natural disaster, spillover, accident, etc.) the goals and objectives for its outcome will vary. For most crises, the immediate goal is to have them go away as fast as possible, and thus remove your brand from the daily news cycle. For others you may need to measure the impact on employees, neighbors, customers, and other stakeholders.

  • Make a list of your key stakeholders and rank order in terms of impact on your organization.

    For example: Employees, Board Members, Customers, Donors, Shareholders, Community Members, Elected/Appointed Officials.

  • If you don’t already have one, then create a list of top tier individuals whose writings, blogs, columns, or reporting influence your key stakeholders. Include all forms of media.

    For example, if there’s a YouTube star who is important to your audience, you’ll need to reach out to him or her as well.

  • Make sure you have a command structure and know who is responding to and communicating with each stakeholder group. Make sure they’re all on the same page.
  • Make a list of all spokespeople who are authorized to speak about the crisis.
  • Give whoever is responsible for tracking media coverage the list of spokespeople.
  • Make sure there is consensus on key messages.
  • Give everyone who might possibly talk to the media the list of key messages.
  • Give whoever is responsible for tracking media coverage the list of key messages.


Step 2: Define your goals, definitions of success, and key performance indicators (KPIs).

  • Make sure you get consensus on what “success” look like when the crisis is over. Here are a few options:
    Tuesday April 2Introduction:
    6 Steps to the perfect measurement system -- including How to define measurable objectives
    Tuesday April 9Media Content Analysis, Pivot Tables and Data Validation
    Tuesday April 16How to design and implement an Internal Communications Measurement Program
    Tuesday April 23How to design a great survey and get the answers you need
    Tuesday April 30Using SEO as a PR Metric
    Tuesday May 7Using GA4 to Prove Value
    Tuesday May 14Creating the perfect customized integrated dashboard that includes Internal & External Comms; Traditional, Digital & Social Media and Events into a single integrated dashboard using free tools
    Tuesday May21How to use measurement to plan for and survive a crisis and how to find insight in your data


Step 3: Set up a monitoring system.

In these days of cyber attacks, every organization should have some sort of media monitoring system in place to track media (social and traditional) mentions. If not, by the time a crisis hits it will be too late. It takes at least a month or two to get a system in place, tested, validated, and trusted.

So assuming you have a system in place, the next step is to set up a clear coding book for whomever is doing the monitoring. The coding book should define and provide examples, if possible, of the following criteria:

  • Frequency of delivery (daily or hourly monitoring is a wonderful tool, but if you can’t respond or react to the data, there’s no point in getting alerts every hour).
  • Media to be tracked…What defines “Top  Tier” media and/or authors vs. others?
  • Definitions of key messages.
  • Definitions of “desirable” vs. “undesirable.”
  • List of spokespeople.
  • Is there a benchmark (i.e., a prior crisis or a peer organization that may have suffered similar negative press?)
  • What subjects/topics or issues need to be tracked?
  • Any other qualitative data that you need?
  • What social media channels will you need to monitor?
  • Are you tracking engagement? If so, then you’ll need to record items like: number of comments, number of Facebook Reactions, number of retweets, number of views on YouTube.


Step 4: Measure changes in perception, trust, and reputation.

If your management is concerned with the reputational implications of a crisis or its effect on trust, you should field a survey as soon as possible to define a benchmark. You will then repeat the survey once your mitigation efforts are in place, and then, ideally, repeat it again after the dust has settled. To set up a survey:

  • Make a list of the audiences you will need to survey.
  • Determine if there is a list available in-house or if you will need to purchase a list.
  • Make a list of any perception data you will need.

    For example: Awareness, Preference, Consideration, Trust level, Commitment level.

  • Draft a list of questions you will need to the answers to.
  • Review the Grunig Relationship Survey Instrument and select the most appropriate statements.
  • Field the survey.
  • Review the cross tabs to make sure you have the data you need.
  • Analyze the results and draw conclusions.


Step 5: Analyze and report results.

  • Put all relevant data into an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Set up a Pivot Table (watch this video for guidance).
  • Sort results numerically on key parameters from highest to lowest.
  • Look for significant failures.
  • Look for exceptional successes.
  • Drill down into the data to determine cause and effect.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation that includes the most relevant charts and data.
  • Report results, draw insights, and make actionable recommendations.

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