The Three R’s of Crisis Communication

Plan ahead, because when a crisis arises, there’s no time for planning.

A broken or malfunctioning product.

Poor judgment.

Lapse in supervision.

A crisis may take many forms; the appropriate communications response generally follows this format: Regret, Recompense, Reform.

Known as the Three R’s, and similar to the education basics of Reading, (w)Riting and (a)Rithmetic, this approach to communication in a tense moment provides guidance and reassurance to management (and employees) when facing hurt and angry customers, accusatory press and the prospect of regulatory investigation.

At the earliest opportunity in the crisis moment, prepare a statement that addresses the situation and incorporates the following, to the extent that the underlying facts are available:

Regret: Apologize, simply and directly, to those affected, their families and the community. We are very sorry that this occurred and extend our sympathies to those who were hurt by ____ (the accident).

Recompense: Indicate that a replacement, coupon or other object of comparable tangible value will be issued to replace the damaged item. Customers whose packaged meatballs have the product code 49B7 should return them to the store where they were purchased for another package or a full refund.

Reform: In anticipation of a possible crisis, you may have contracted a consultant of impeccable reputation. State, by name if possible, that this consultant has been hired to investigate the circumstances and recommend steps that will immediately be implemented to ensure that the situation will not recur. We have hired Company X to review the situation and, based on that analysis and recommended procedures, we will implement changes and do our very best to make sure that this incident will never, ever happen again. 

Using this formula, consider the most likely scenarios: tainted product, breach of computer security, employee malfeasance, accident and loss of life, among others. Like the fire drill required to be held in your office building, conduct a simulation at least quarterly.

Are you ready for a moment in the spotlight, with customers and reporters shouting accusations at your company or organization? Contact me at, set an appointment here or call me at 212.677.5770. Let’s prepare now and trust that your practice session is never played out before a live audience.

Click here to read prior issues of this newsletter.

Click here to subscribe to this monthly newsletter and make sure you don’t miss the next issue.