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Communicating with target audiences during a crisis

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One of the most critical components of working through a crisis is how you communicate the issue at hand with your organization’s target audiences – those who are being (or potentially will be) impacted. How you go about this can make or break how the company is positioned in a sensitive situation and determine how and if your brand will recover.

A question to ask yourself is, who are the target audiences you should be communicating when you are faced with a crisis? It’s always best to think of your target audiences from internal to external audiences for sequencing reasons. Meaning, who is it most important to tell first, second, third, etc. and sequence these audiences out until you reach the ground (which is usually the community at large). Sequencing is important because you don’t want your staff hearing about a crisis from the media or a rumor.

To get you thinking of how you would sequence your communication, we’ve outlined examples of target audience groups from internal to external examples of how you might communicate with them:


  • All staff meeting
  • Email memo
  • Conference call (for those who may be in outlying regions or if crisis happens on weekend)


  • One-on-one, in person meetings
  • Phone calls made by leadership (draft talking points for reference)

Donors/volunteers/board of directors

  • One-on-one, in person meetings
  • Scripted phone calls with a follow up Q&A (as they might see the need to be prepared with their own messaging as well)

Community partners

  • Phone calls
  • Email or letter detailing situation


  • News conference
  • Issue a press release or frequent statements
  • One-on-one sit downs to tell your story and give interviews

Community at large

  • Use communication through media
  • Post updates through online platforms such as a website or social media

After you’ve decided how you will communicate with your target audiences, you must then look at when you will communicate with them. The timing of the sequencing among audiences can differ depending on how much time you have. It could be long periods of time such as weeks or if you become aware of a crisis quickly, it could mean the matter of just days or just minutes between communications to these groups.

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