Crisis: Communication Planning – Lessons from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Posted by Kaden Jacobs, APR
July 2, 2024

In times of crisis, effective communication is often the difference between success and failure. Whether you’re running a business, litigating a case or perhaps leading a space rebellion against an evil empire, having a solid crisis communication plan is crucial. While it’s certainly easier to say you need a plan than to build one, let’s look at the various steps to developing one by reviewing the efforts of a few rebellious folks from that galaxy far, far away.

Identify Potential Crises

The critical first step in any effective crisis communications plan is always research. Taking the time to see what issues could affect you or your firm informs what is included in the plan. The Rebel Alliance recognized that the Death Star posed an existential threat to its cause and planetary systems across the galaxy. To address this crisis, the Rebels knew they would need more information about the threat, so they went to Scarif to steal the Death Star plans. Armed with the detailed data about the weapon system, they moved to the next step in the plan.

Assemble a Crisis Team

A diverse team with varied expertise is essential for managing a crisis. From attorneys, paralegals, researchers and firm leadership to star pilots, Galactic senators, mechanics and droids, a cross-functional approach ensures all aspects of the crisis are considered. By identifying – and training – these individuals before a crisis begins, you’re better able to hit the ground running to minimize the negative effects of the event.

Establish Clear Communication Channels

While you don’t have a secret base on Yavin 4 with secure communications platforms, you do likely know the ways your firm traditionally communicates with internal and external stakeholders. By establishing a clear chain of command and already having a list of the appropriate, updated contact information for the media, you can position your firm to execute an organized, coordinated communication strategy targeting the most effective communication channels to share your key messaging.

Prepare Key Messages

Crafting clear, concise messages is one of the most important parts of developing the crisis communication plan. Focusing on the primary points and addressing the core issues of the crisis allows more time to find ways to address and, eventually, solve the problem. After reviewing the research and putting together a team, the Rebel Alliance turned its focus to its key message: The Death Star has a critical weakness, and a proton torpedo into a thermal exhaust port is the only way to exploit it. Your crisis messages should similarly provide clear guidance and address the most pressing concerns of your stakeholders.

Train and Drill

Practice makes perfect, especially in crisis situations. While the Rebel pilots likely didn’t have time to run extensive simulations and drills to prepare, you do. By scheduling regular discussions and tabletop drills, you can develop your team’s skills and ensure the seamless execution of your communications strategy if and when a crisis does strike.

Adapt to Changing Circumstances

The Rebel plan had to adapt when unexpected obstacles arose, such as enemy TIE fighters and a Sith lord. Luke Skywalker shut off his torpedo targeting system and used the Force to accomplish the mission successfully. In the same way, your crisis communication plan should be flexible enough to respond to evolving situations, even in real time. As new information becomes available or as situations develop, be prepared to adjust your messaging and tactics to stay on top of the situation.

Debrief and Learn

After the crisis passes, it’s important to analyze your response and identify areas for improvement. A crisis communications plan should be a living document with updates completed regularly. The Rebel Alliance likely reviewed its successful mission to apply lessons learned to future operations – say, for instance, the appearance of the Death Star II. Similarly, your firm should conduct a thorough post-crisis review, which is the perfect time to have honest and open conversations about what went well, what didn’t and how strategies and messaging can be adjusted for the future.

By following these principles of crisis communication planning, firms can better prepare for and navigate difficult crisis situations. While your crises may not involve planet-destroying space stations, the fundamentals of clear, timely and strategic communication remain the same. With proper planning and execution, you can guide your team through any crisis that comes your way.

Want to rely on more than the Force for a successful crisis communications plan? Contact us for help!

Kaden Jacobs, APR, is a vice president of our media relations team and is based in Augusta, Georgia.