Does your crisis communications plan include a risk register?

In a previous role the organisation I worked for had a risk manager.

Before I met him I imagined he spent his days wandering around the office in a high-vis jacket and hard hat while noting down trip hazards on a trusty clipboard and reminding workers about the dangers associated with carrying hot drinks.

His role, of course, was far more strategic and he became a crucial ally in my crisis communications planning.

He actually spent his time identifying the organisation’s vulnerabilities and recording it all in a register.

Now, while it is impossible to predict the exact form a crisis media management situation will take, having a document that identifies risks and forecasts potential pitfalls is a great starting point for following the crisis comms mantra of expecting the unexpected.

So I worked to develop and expand his register to include other areas I felt could expose the organisation to public attention, media scrutiny and damage its reputation.

This register became my crisis communications bible.

Of course not all organisations will have a risk manager or a risk register, so to help with this process we have developed a risk register template which you can use in our crisis communications eBook.

Once you are familiar with your organisation’s risk register, or have devised your own, you need to test your crisis communications plan against those vulnerabilities with some role play and desktop exercises involving realistic and fast moving scenarios.

In these exercises you should look to develop your holding statements and anticipate the media questions you would be likely to face.

Here are the questions we think you are likely to face in the initial stages of a crisis.

What happened / went wrong?

How did it happen?

Where did it happen?

When did you become aware of the problem?

What action have you taken?

Who is affected?

Were there any warning signs?

Who is to blame?


When considering these questions it is important to think about what else is on the news agenda at the time.

If the incident is a fatal accident, consider whether anything similar has happened recently that the media could draw comparisons to. Or, to give another example, has a rival company had to withdraw a similar product recently?

Failure to think about what else is ‘moving’ on the topics could leave your organisation exposed – and the risk manager certainly wouldn’t approve of that.


This blog is based on a chapter in our eBook ‘Why you cannot afford to put off planning for a crisis’. Click here to download it for free.


Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 


Click here to find out more about our highly practical crisis communication courses.


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