Communicate in a Crisis Book Summary By Kate Hartley

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The book Communicate in a Crisis (2019) dives deep into how to communicate effectively and sensitively during a crisis.

Authored by Kate Hartley, readers will gain insight into why consumers build such strong connections with brands, as well as why social media can be seen as a risk for businesses.

She also provides valuable guidance for how to create an effective communication plan when navigating a crisis.

This guide is essential for anyone looking for ways to increase their brand’s visibility and success, no matter what the situation may be!

Whether you’re facing reputational damage from scandals or simply want to protect your organization from future issues, trust the wisdom of “Communicate in a Crisis.”

Communicate in a Crisis Book

Book Name: Communicate in a Crisis (Understand, Engage and Influence Consumer Behaviour to Maximize Brand Trust)

Author(s): Kate Hartley

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 27 Minutes

Categories: Communication Skills

Author Bio

Kate Hartley is a powerhouse in the field of crisis communications.

With a diverse career spanning over 25 years and counting, Kate has become an expert in PR, reputation management, and crisis communications.

As cofounder of Polpeo, she helps equip brands with the necessary tools to manage their online presence when facing crises.

Kate's expertise is widely sought after by top businesses around the globe.

With her vast knowledge and experience navigating sticky situations, she has become a leading voice in the industry with her invaluable advice and strategies on how best to handle crises that involve social media.

Understand Consumers And Their Reactions During A Crisis To Effectively Manage Your Brand’s Communications


Creating a crisis communication plan is essential for any business that wants to survive during turbulent times.

The foundation of this plan lies in understanding your consumer’s behavior when it comes to interacting with your brand, and the motivations behind them.

Moreover, having strong leadership in place is key to navigating through difficult times, as well as exhibiting empathy when dealing with customers and stakeholders.

With a comprehensive crisis communication plan at the ready, businesses can weather any storm that comes their way.

It’s important to be prepared and equip yourself or your organization with the necessary tools to handle crises quickly and effectively.

A good plan should involve setting up concrete steps for responding to crises quickly and accurately; training staff on how to respond appropriately; and coming up with ways to reach customers, stakeholders, and even the public if needed.

Companies should think ahead in order to anticipate potential issues arising out of a major event – including natural disasters, product recalls or drops in revenue – so they can be better equipped to take action if one occurs.

By having such plans in place beforehand, you will be sure that you are ready no matter what happens!

How Passion Brands Can Create Lasting Relationships – And What To Do When They Break Our Trust

Nowadays, consumers are more likely to build close relationships with brands that are authentic and transparent.

That’s why Ashley was so let down when Volkswagen lied about the carbon dioxide emissions of their vehicles.

Her trust was broken and she expressed her betrayal on social media.

When people like a brand, they form an emotional connection with them.

They become loyal to the brand, expecting the same in return.

This is particularly true with passion brands – ones that reflect values that we share or make us feel good in some way.

For example, you may favor certain shoe brands because you identify with their style or views on sustainability – this creates a bond between you and the company.

If these companies breach our trust however, then things can change quickly.

For example, Facebook’s data saga saw one in five people delete their account immediately afterwards due to feeling betrayed by the platform they had entrusteed with their most private information.

It’s important for business to keep this in mind; they must remain honest and open if they expect loyalty from their customers!

How Brands Can Anger Customers And Trigger Public Outrage

When you think of outrage, usually it’s triggered by an individual’s actions.

But, brands can also cause consumer outrage in multiple ways.

According to Daniel Karlsson and Lucas Rodriguez – researchers at Umea University in Sweden – when a brand acts against its set of values, people take it very personally.

For example, when Harper Lee published her sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and changed the hero of the book from a civil rights advocate into a racist, avid readers felt betrayed and publicly condemned Lee.

Similarly, brands that mess up services that people rely on heavily can also trigger outrage.

In 2018, disruptions to rail companies in the United Kingdom generated huge backlash among commuters who vented their frustrations on social media.

This became such a big story because people could relate to the consequences of disrupted travel and love a good scandal!

Thus, brands should be aware that they can end up inciting outrage among their consumers if they don’t act according to their values or fail on delivering reliable services.

With social media giving them a platform for expressing their grievances publicly, customers won’t back down until justice is served.

Social Media Offers Consumers The Power To Hold Brands Accountable For Their Actions


Consumers today have the power to influence the decisions of even major brands, thanks to social media.

It has become incredibly easy for consumers to express their outrage at a brand’s actions online, through platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

This has resulted in brands being held accountable for their actions, and even suffering permanent damage to their reputation if they make a mistake.

The author of Communicate in a Crisis experienced this firsthand when she wrote a blog post supportive of an ad launched by John Lewis which sparked the ire of animal rights campaigners.

Though her post sought only to examine the power of small groups of activists, she was still attacked publicly online – her personal details were shared on Facebook and cruel messages sent by strangers.

It just goes to show that consumers can create an immense backlash against a brand if they feel it is not upholding their ethical standards.

No business is going to be perfect all the time, but it important for companies to be prepared with a good crisis communication plan should they need it – especially since social media gives consumers such an effective platform to take them down.

How To Determine If You’Re Facing A Real Crisis Or Just Another Issue

Crisis management expert, Jonathan Hemus recommends the first step when it comes to crisis communication planning is defining what constitutes a “crisis” for your brand.

Without understanding this, you won’t be able to move forward with a crisis plan.

For businesses, an example of a crisis could be not being able to run core business activities.

This can be seen in the case of KFC running out of chicken in 2018 – while customers had to go elsewhere, this impacted the company’s ability to sell their core product (fried chicken).

The difference between an issue and a full-blown crisis is also critical to understand.

Issues are problems that must be managed as part of day-to-day operations and don’t prevent the company from functioning at all.

On the other hand, crises can cause significant financial damage or impact your organization’s reputation.

Be Prepared For A Crisis: Developing An Effective Pre-Crisis Plan

It’s no secret that in today’s world, organizations must be prepared for digital threats.

Whether it be an attack on the IT system of a national healthcare organization or a data breach exposing thousands of customers to financial information, these are examples of crises that can have serious implications for both business owners and their customers.

For this reason, it is essential for businesses to create a pre-crisis plan.

This plan should include representatives from all departments within the company, such as HR, legal, compliance and risk, and technology.

Additionally, teams from PR and marketing will have an important role in communicating any details of the crisis externally.

Having a comprehensive plan with structured levels of threat (such as stage 1 low level threat or stage 4 high level threat) allows businesses to quickly determine what action needs to be taken when facing a potential crisis situation.

Not only does it make decision-making more efficient but it can also help minimize the damage caused by the crisis.

Brands Must Respond Quickly And Accurately In A Crisis To Mitigate Reputational Damage

Reputational Damage

When it comes to managing a crisis, brands need to act quickly and accurately.

This applies to both the messaging that is shared externally about what happened, as well as the customer service response.

In the case of British Airways, they failed in both areas.

They released a vague statement that blamed a local power outage for the issue; but when questioned by the energy company responsible for supplying it, British Airways could not confirm this was true.

This led customers to become increasingly confused and angry.

For brands responding to a crisis, there needs to be an effective strategy in place to manage the high volume of online inquiries they will receive from customers.

It’s important that regular updates are posted on social media and websites so people don’t feel they have to come directly to you for information.

Additionally, appropriate templates should be created in order for quick responses – this saves time, yet still delivers useful responses with accurate facts included.

In summary, when dealing with any kind of emergency situation it is essential for brands to respond quickly and accurately in order to protect their reputation and avoid causing further chaos or confusion amongst consumers.

It’S Essential For Brands To Communicate Factually During A Crisis To Maintain Trust And Respect

Accurate communication during a crisis is vital if you want to maintain trust with your audience.

This is something that the renowned journalist and author, Kate Adie, was keen to emphasize to communications directors at a 2018 conference.

Adie, who has reported from some of history‘s biggest news events, advised all communicators that it’s important to deliver truthful and clear messages in order to foster trust.

This is particularly relevant in an era where bogus information can quickly spread due to the influence of social media.

In her address, she discussed four essential principles for factual communication in a crisis: get to the story, find the facts, verify the facts, and report the facts.

Brands should strive to learn as much as they can about what’s happened—from firsthand sources rather than third parties—and convey their findings in straightforward language so there won’t be any confusion or misunderstanding.

Correct communication is essential if companies want to keep their customers’ trust when disaster strikes; candor is always appreciated!

Leaders Should Navigate Crises With Clarity, Empathy, And Decisiveness

Navigate Crises

Leaders who know how to navigate a crisis with clarity, empathy, and decisiveness are the ones who will come out ahead.

This is something that was demonstrated by former Prime Minister Winston Churchill when he addressed the House of Commons during the Second World War.

He set a clear goal for the nation and provided a roadmap to achieve it.

This is called setting a ‘strategic intent’ which business leaders should also do during times of crisis.

To do this, one should picture what things could look like six months down the line, and write down their strategic intent in simple words.

For example, if you have had to close your restaurant due to a flood, your strategic intent may be to maintain customer loyalty in upcoming months.

Empathy is also key when leading during difficult times.

Acknowledge hardships faced by stakeholders and use compassionate language – no jargon or corporate speak here!

In addition to that, don’t shy away from apologizing if needed – Nick Varney CEO of Alton Towers was apologetic about an accident that took place at his amusement park in 2015 in which two girls had their legs amputated.

These three traits – clarity, empathy and decisiveness – form pillars of effective leadership during a crisis and can make all the difference when it comes to coming out on top!

Wrap Up

In Communicate in a Crisis, the main takeaway is that businesses need to be prepared for any and all crisis situations.

They must have a ready-made crisis team, differentiate between issues and catastrophes, and have their strategic intent already mapped out ahead of time.

When it comes to communicating with customers in times of trouble, the best approach is to be honest.

Finally, it’s important to take a moment – analyze, think, then execute – when you’re in the middle of a crisis situation.

By taking these steps, businesses can handle difficult situations effectively and minimize any potential damage.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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