By Al Upchurch
Senior Vice President, Marx Layne & Co.

Nearly every company is going to face a crisis that attracts media attention. And the media scrutiny demands that you communicate effectively in these situations. If you don’t tell your story, others will tell it for you. That’s the last thing you want during a crisis.

The goal of crisis communications is to lessen damage to your company’s reputation. As with anything in life, preparation is the key. Here are five steps you must take to prepare for the unexpected:

  1. Identify a crisis team and two spokesmen: one main spokesman and a backup. Make sure everyone in the company knows who the members of the team are, and that any interaction with the media will only come from the team and spokesmen.
  2. Create a crisis communications plan; keep it updated. The crisis team should meet on a regular basis, to make revisions as necessary.
  3. Compose a comprehensive media list; make sure the names of key reporters are highlighted. The director of communications and other spokesmen should meet with and get to know the reporters before any crisis occurs.
  4. Develop key messages in advance of a crisis. The team and spokesmen should understand the company brand and be prepared to talk about it.
  5. Consider professional media training to improve presence and confidence if you don’t have experience dealing with the media.

Al Upchurch is senior vice president of Marx Layne & Company. He has 24 years of experience as a television news producer and manager, and 10 years of experience working on media relations and crisis communication initiatives for a variety of organizations.

For more information on crisis communication and media relations, visit