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  • Writer's pictureShawna Bruce

Debriefing your Crisis Communications Team

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

From the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis, the importance of communications came to the fore as tackling this pandemic has required whole-of-society engagement. The relatively constant and consistent flow of information has elevated the need for crisis communications planning and preparedness to support the coordinated action and the "new normal for now" reality.

Today, communicators are continuing to play a critical role throughout the relaunch phase, ensuring their employees and customers are receiving the necessary information for a safe re-entry into the workplace.

From a disaster and emergency management perspective, one might consider this pandemic a slow-moving crisis. Yet, this pandemic gave organizations time to test their crisis communications plans (or discover the challenges of not having one), and work through their processes. Now is the time for communications teams to hold a debrief to deconstruct and reconstruct the crisis through a communications prism. A debrief will support filling the gaps identified before the next crisis event.


Here are some suggestions on what to include in a Communications Debrief:

Conduct a post-event communications analytical review: It was and will remain essential for the public and your internal team to understand where audiences get their information during a crisis. Was there an increase in website traffic patterns? How were users searching your website? Were audiences sharing your social media content? In a crisis, communicators need to use all the tools in their toolbox, but an analytical review will reveal if some mediums are yielding a lower return on investment. Conducting a communications analysis will support prioritizing efforts for the next crisis event.

Get feedback from your stakeholders: Conduct a survey and ask your stakeholders if your communications met their needs. What worked and what did not? Were they getting the information they needed to make informed decisions? Was the tempo of communications in line with what they were expecting? Were your contact lists up to date? And most importantly, did they understand what you were trying to tell them? Remember: Not everything you disseminated was received and understood.

Talk about what went well: Commend your team for their efforts and applaud them for the role they played in the response. Identify best practices within your organization that worked and ensure your team documents the actions in their policies and procedures. Do not count on memory or corporate knowledge for the next emergency or crisis. Ensure to document best practices, establish a work plan and incorporate the changes into your plan.

Identify skills found and skills needed: A crisis can offer people the opportunity to explore on-the-job learning. What new skills did your team add to their communicator's toolbox? A crisis provides team members with professional development and leadership opportunities to strengthen their skills. What skills will help them perform their roles better in the future? Now is the time to determine the future training development needs of the communications team.

If the COVID-19 health pandemic has reinforced anything in the minds of emergency managers, it is how integral communications is to an effective response. Deconstructing and reconstructing your communications approach to the pandemic will increase the resiliency of your team and build on their capacity to respond to your next crisis event.

For more information about debriefing communications teams, crisis communications, public information officer training or media interview workshops please email us at

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