Crisis Communications Strategy


To effectively manage communications through clearly defined channels in order to mitigate crisis impacts or serious negative repercussions for Wikimedia Australia (WMAU) and the broader movement.

The objectives of this crisis communications plan are to:

  • Prepare WMAU staff and Board members to effectively and nimbly manage crisis communications;
  • Strategically enhance the WMAU’s brand/role, and the public understanding of the value provided by the broader movement;
  • Manage the open distribution of timely and open information to the media, members, and public based on Wikimedia policies and principles;

Key points

  1. All crises should be reported to and between the EO and WMAU President immediately.
  2. If required the Crisis Communications Committee (CCC) should convene as soon as possible to decide on strategy and messaging. Information should only be released once a strategy has been agreed.
  3. WMAU Board and Staff should be informed of the situation and the strategy as soon as possible and kept informed as the crisis plays out.
  4. Only the CCC designated spokesperson and back-up spokespeople if required are authorised to release information to the media and to the public.
  5. All staff and Board members should be professional and helpful to the media by connecting them with the designated spokesperson. They should not comment on the situation or provide any information unless confirmed by the CCC.  
  6. All comments should be guided by professionalism and transparency, and serve to mitigate the crisis while reinforcing the leadership role of WMAU.

Crisis Communications Committee (CCC)

The standing subBoard should comprise:

  • Executive officer
  • WMAU President and/or Vice President
  • Designated Board member

Other staff (such as the Communications officer), board members or external people with relevant expertise may be asked to join on an ad hoc basis depending on the situation.

Unless otherwise agreed the EO shall be the official spokesperson and manage media with support from staff as required.

CCC Roles and responsibilities

  • Coordinator
  • Spokesperson - The CCC should designate a spokesperson to interact with the media and other inquirers - this will be the EO unless otherwise agreed.
  • Media monitoring and record keeper - the CCC should designate someone to monitor and record developments. This could be a CCC member or the WMAU Communications officer, or if not available some other staff or Board member designated to keep the CCC and Board informed. They should keep a record of crisis details, actions taken, external responses, resolution and other details.
  • Compile a list of additional spokespeople if required

CCC Strategy

The Crisis Communications Committee should meet and assess the situation to determine:

What is the situation?

  • What is known and who already knows it?
  • Is there potential public interest? Does the issue have traction (will it become anything more than a blip on the evening news)?
  • Who will be affected?
  • What are people feeling – what emotions need to be considered?
  • What are the likely scenarios for what will happen next?
  • What immediate steps need to be taken?
  • Assess what resources are necessary to manage the crisis (i.e. equipment, data, on-location resources).

Who needs to be consulted?

  • Who on staff/Board or externally should be consulted?
  • What information is needed and who beyond WMAU staff and Board members need to get it? When will it be available?
  • Is legal or PR counsel needed?
  • If necessary contact partners, allies, members, and/or the international Wikimedia Foundation etc. and assist with sector-wide talking points, if appropriate
  • Consult with other organisations involved to ensure consistent messages and conformity of responses.

What are we saying?

  • Consider whether a comment is necessary? Silence may be the best option.
  • Prepare talking points and provide a reply (written or verbal) for incoming inquiries.
  • Consider what CAN and CAN’T be said? What are WMAU’s privacy policies?
  • Develop factual, detailed messages that reflect the status of the crisis, WMAU’s response, and, if possible, proactive steps to resolve the situation.
  • Messages should reflect the organization’s overall messages, leadership role, and resource status. They should attempt to reinforce the positive and be action/solution oriented if possible.
  • Consider what media know about the situation and what their potential interest is. Consider questions that will be asked in order to prepare answers for them – including the questions you hope will not be asked.
  • Recognize that unfavorable, inaccurate information, if not corrected, could have future negative consequences requiring additional responses.
  • Develop a written statement and consider the need for additional materials such as a fact sheet, backgrounder, web site resources, FAQs, etc.
  • No comment" is not generally an acceptable response. If an answer is unknown or cannot be immediately answered, make note of the question, tell the inquirer you will get back with him/her, and do so. If the question cannot be answered due to a policy (such as sharing personnel information, etc.) let the inquirer know that.
  • Personnel matters are to remain confidential.
  • Develop pre-approved Statements if necessary – Responses for common media inquiries should be created and approved by the board as necessary.

How are we communicating?

  • Designate a communications platform for all internal messaging.
  • Choose key platforms for public communication - could include:
    • website/newsletter article – low urgency – also good as a follow up to any major situation;
    • one-on-one meetings – higher urgency, specific audience targeted such as legislators;
    • media release – higher urgency, broad public appeal; media conference – high urgency and big issue; etc.)
    • Social media platforms
  • What media will be contacted?
  • Implement methods for updating key audiences with ongoing information.

Response options

  1. No action taken
  2. Refer issue to other experts, key stakeholders or international Wikipedia Foundation and, if necessary, assist in creating messages.
  3. Release a proactive statement to appropriate audiences (members, media, key stakeholder etc.)
  4. Obtain counsel to direct further actions and review position (legal or Wikimedia Foundation advice).
  5. Prepare to make reactive statements if needed.

After the crisis:

  • Loose ends - complete any follow up calls, email updates, etc.
  • Distribute post-crisis communications.
  • Appropriate communications should be made outlining the resolution of the crisis to appropriate audiences. If changed, website should be updated. All media contacts should be double checked for completed interaction, and the media list updated in Xero.
  • Crisis Communications Review – CCC and Board to evaluate response, actions, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved/revised for the future, etc.
  • Media Coverage Assessment – Review coverage. Check for message consistency and saliency. Are there issues that might need further clarification?
  • File and Update notes, documentation and Crisis Communications Plan as necessary.
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