Companies that continue to take a tactical, short-term approach to communicating with key constituencies will find it increasingly difficult to compete. Communications with government officials depends upon the nature and severity of the incident and regulatory requirements.
Human Resources (HR) is responsible for the day-to-day communications with employees regarding employment issues and benefits administration. Another important element of the crisis communications plan is the need to coordinate the release of information. A recent study by the Brookings Institution showed that in 1978, 20% of corporate value was attributable to intangible assets, whereas in 1998 that had increased to 80%.
However, only a handful of academics and a cadre of tactical consultants, primarily at public relations companies, have struggled with strategy implementation in the area where it matters most: its communication to a set of varied constituents.
Close coordination between management, company spokesperson, public agencies and HR is needed when managing the sensitive nature of communications related to an incident involving death or serious injury.
Many companies take a tactical, short-term approach to communicating with key constituencies, which is not only nonstrategic but may be inconsistent with the corporate strategy or even impede it. We define strategic communication as communication aligned with the company’s overall strategy, to enhance its strategic positioning. The authors would like to thank the National Investor Relations Institute’s Center for Strategic Communication for support of our research. This step of Ready Business provides direction for developing a crisis communications plan.


Understanding the audiences that a business needs to reach during an emergency is one of the first steps in the development of a crisis communications plan. The crisis communication or business continuity plan should include documented procedures for notification of suppliers. Another important goal of the crisis communications plan is to move from reacting to the incident, to managing a strategy, to overcome the incident.
The crisis communications team, consisting of members of the management team, should operate in an office environment to support the contact and information centers. However, the dearth of both academic and practitioner emphasis on the strategic nature of communications, coupled with recent legal and regulatory responses to corporate scandals (such as enactment of Regulation Fair Disclosure and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002), has created a strategic communication imperative — an increasingly urgent need for executives to ensure that their communications practices contribute directly to corporate strategy implementation.
Using this input, the crisis communications team can inform management about the issues that are being raised by stakeholders. Developing an integrated, strategic approach to communications will be critical to success. Argenti is professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College.Robert A. The risk assessment process should identify scenarios that would require communications with stakeholders. Management needs to develop the strategy and the crisis communications team needs to implement that strategy by allaying the concerns of each audience and positioning the organization to emerge from the incident with its reputation intact. The research not only indicates the drivers, best practices and lessons of strategic communication, but it also suggests that when companies take a strategic approach to communication, communication becomes integral to the formulation and implementation of strategy.


All of these “audiences” will want information before the business has a chance to begin communicating. To research the concept that strategic communication is inextricably linked to corporate strategy, we asked these executives about their communications strategies and tactics. Lists should be updated regularly, secured to protect confidential information and available to authorized users at the emergency operations center or an alternate location for use by members of the crisis communications team. Notification requirements specified in regulations should be documented in the crisis communications plan. HR should also coordinate communications with those involved with the care of employees and the provision of benefits to employees and their families. Exercising is the key ingredient to assure effective execution during real crisis situations.
In turn, management should provide input into the messages generated by the crisis communications team.



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