Prepare yourself: The 4 stages of a crisis

The patterns of a media disaster are predictable, and they unfold in four stages. Know what they are, and you can better control your company or client’s message.

Why? Quite simply, we, the reader, listener, viewer, the @toms, @dicks, and @harrys, expect a certain narrative to appear at certain times. For example, research done by Stanford University regarding coverage of 9/11 shows very clearly that “narrative patterns all play out in predictable ways during crisis reporting.”

The readers and the storytellers themselves, perhaps unknowingly, expect to hear, see, and read about stories of courage, death defying events, people surviving against odds, and that someone, somewhere can be held accountable for their losses.

There has to be an explanation for why the government took so long to respond, or why there was in-fighting, or why it was yet another tale of bad boys behaving badly. We want to know that someone cares and has the determination, conviction, and compassion to do something to make sure that the “worst” can never happen again.

Essentially, human beings are story-telling animals. We will stretch, shrink, and squeeze the truth to suit our own experience, our perceptions, our biases, and our culture. Once the facts are out there—and that will happen at a blistering speed today—we will then dissect the information and pass judgment.

The four stages of a crisis

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.