Crisis PR: A Winning Decision

Crises have never been as transparent and ubiquitous as in this millennium. It requires a skilled person to manage information during a crisis, as well as to predict and plan for a future one. Within three months of my internship with The Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries located in St. Louis, I created a crisis communications plan that has since been implemented throughout the organization.

If you find yourself working for an organization that does not yet have a crisis communication plan in place, consider being the person who develops one. Doing so is a definite challenge, but it brings with it several specific rewards – such as

  • Gain access to people at all levels and functions within the organization.

When I was tasked with developing this plan,  I began by generating a list of potential threats. I formed this list by talking to everyone throughout the organization, which was a great excuse to formally meet all the staff and interact with them on a personal level. From the janitor to the CEO, each will have a unique perspective and invaluable input that can change the course of a company in crisis.

  • Put yourself in a role that lets you educate employees and advance the company’s best interests.

One of the biggest challenges faced by public relations professionals is validating our projects and efforts. This is as true as ever in crisis communications (at least, until a crisis happens); employees may not understand why a crisis communication plan is important, and this will be your first hurdle in creating one that’s effective. You must be able to explain three things: why communication is important, the difference between the court of law and the court of public opinion, and how having a solid crisis communication plan in place will affect an organization’s bottom line. Once you get everyone on the same page, you’ll be in a position to move the company forward and gain genuine respect.

  • Be a change agent who strengthens the organization in a visible and concrete way.

No one wants to admit that there are weaknesses in their organization, and they most certainly do not want to discuss them. However, weaknesses exist in every organization and cannot be ignored. Talking to colleagues throughout the organization showed me that most had never thought about that “worst case scenario” in their respective functions. They expressed concern because there were potential incidents that they felt unprepared to handle. These are the things you must uncover and address in your plan, in order to strengthen the organization in a real and effective way that’s felt by employees at all levels and in all areas.

  • Learn to plan ahead and gain a crisis-ready mindset.

Crisis happens quickly and never as anticipated. When writing a crisis plan, you have a unique opportunity to visualize what the day of a crisis will be like. What are you most likely to overlook? What do you need to do so you gain a comfortable level of control? What will be the most stressful part of a specific crisis? What will be your first reaction? These questions are just the start of what it takes to really focus in on a crisis situation. Without ever being in a crisis, writing a plan and practicing it is the closest you will ever be to the real thing.

  • Add a unique and desirable skill set to your resume.

Get those hands dirty! While this tip may be worn out, it is something worth repeating. You have to make sure to challenge yourself during your internships and jobs. It teaches you a great deal about yourself and especially about your capabilities. Building a crisis communication plan will help you to develop a skill set that not everyone in public relations has, and it will teach you things that will undoubtedly come in handy down the road.

No matter the reason for your interest in crisis communication, remember that you have chosen one of the most intense aspects of our profession.  Do not be nervous; embrace the challenge and make the most out of it. Accepting this challenge gave me irreplaceable experience and helped me become invaluable to my organization. Next challenge, please!

Robert Fischer was adopted from Guatemala, raised in St. Louis and now resides in Los Angeles.  With a passion for localized talent, he graduated with a degree in public relations at the University of Central Missouri.  He works in the music industry, representing local bands, and hopes to expand to entertainment and fashion clients. Find out more about Robert by visiting

Intro to Employee Communications PR

A growing specialty in the world of public relations is employee communication. Positions with this area as the primary focus are found most often in large organizations, where the employee base is large and diverse. More importantly, these positions exist when leadership fully understands how employee engagement correlates with an organization’s success or failure. In a sense, employees are the organization, so it is hard to imagine a more critical stakeholder group.

Describing a day in the life of an employee communications specialist doesn’t sound difficult until you sit down and start to write. Why? Because every day is so different from the next. Let me begin by telling you, briefly, about our organization.

DuPont Pioneer is in the production agriculture industry—specifically, crop seed genetics. Headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, where the business began in 1926, Pioneer now has more than 12,500 full-time employees working in more than 90 countries around the world. Acquired by DuPont in 1999, Pioneer is part of a science company that is more than 200 years old and focused on using science to help solve global challenges related to food, energy and protection.

Since joining Pioneer five years ago, I have enjoyed being part of a very exciting and rapidly growing business. One of the biggest “plusses” had been the value placed on employee communication by our president.

I lead a terrific team of four professionals, each of whom has a full plate of specific responsibilities related to our global employee audience.

So what is my typical day like?

Because each day is so different, I am going to take some liberty with my assignment and tell you instead what a typical week includes. And since it is Friday morning, I am simply going to look back at the week that is now coming to a close. Keep in mind that my role involves more managerial duties than others on the team. (Read: Lots of meetings!)


  • Global teleconference to review the Pioneer Communications planning calendar
  • Met with Pioneer intranet manager to review process to secure outsourced help with online publishing
  • Consulting appointment with Web Services staff to set up Team Site for Global DuPont Public Affairs task team that I am leading
  • Attended Lunch-and-Learn meeting to hear two renowned journalists/authors discuss looming global crisis: hunger
  • Attended final presentation by our summer intern
  • Met with two staff members to develop draft presentation for meeting next week with executive sponsors of the next-generation intranet steering team
  • Attended evening event related to work


  • Met with Communications Leadership Team to discuss planning process and budgets for 2013
  • Web meeting with DuPont colleagues about intranet platform capabilities
  • Slogged through overflowing email inbox
  • Proofed documents as requested
  • Followed up on PRSA Employee Communications Section responsibilities; also on local PRSA Chapter responsibilities.


  • Participated in web conference with DuPont colleagues to view demo of intranet site set up on SharePoint 2010 platform by another DuPont businesses
  • Summarized highlights of web conference and sent follow-up memo to appropriate Information Management staff at Pioneer
  • Met with new manager for employee online communities about metrics and dashboard options
  • Met with staff members to refine draft presentation for meeting next week with sponsors of the next-generation intranet steering team


  • Early meeting with next-generation intranet steering team
  • Left that meeting early to get to the first of two half-day training sessions with senior leaders, led by David Grossman of The Grossman Group (focus was internal communication of Pioneer strategy)
  • Talked with David over lunch about other work he is doing with Pioneer
  • Second training session with senior leaders


  • Three goals today: write this blog post, follow up with members of task team I am leading for DuPont, and get out of the office in time to go to the Iowa State Fair. One down, two to go.

Young professionals who want to work in employee communications should:

  1. Polish their writing and presentation skills. You must be strong in both of these core skills.
  2. Get very familiar with intranet best practices, which are evolving even as I write this post.
  3. Take some business classes, and develop a basic understanding of today’s global economy. This knowledge will help you understand and converse more intelligently with your senior leaders, whose support is critical to your success.


Chris JensenChristine Jensen, APR, MBA, is the employee communications manager of DuPont Pioneer. Prior experience includes a position as an adjunct lecturer in public relations at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and public relations/marketing management positions for a private college and several healthcare organizations, including Mayo Clinic, where she managed internal communication. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College in Iowa and her Master of Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Jensen served for three years as a board member of the PRSA Charlotte Chapter and currently serves as accreditation chair for the PRSA Central Iowa Chapter and the chair of the PRSA Employee Communications Section. She was a charter member of the executive committee of the Section and chaired its first national conference in Chicago in 1996. The thoughts expressed in this blog post are entirely her own and do not reflect those of her employer.