Do you have a crisis PR plan in place? Is your plan ready to get ahead of the bad news, grab the headlines and regain control of the message? Maybe you do … but here’s the most important question: “When was the last time you updated it?”

An old plan may not be ready for prime time, and you don’t want to find that out when it matters. But reading and reviewing your plan isn’t enough to effectively determine if it will be ready when you need it. You should have a consistent, step by step plan for testing and evaluating your crisis plan, so you know it will offer you the best protection when the chips are down. With that in mind, here are a few questions everyone should ask when evaluating – or creating – a working crisis PR plan.

1 – Is my plan flexible enough to address challenges at every level of my organization?

You don’t know where a crisis will hit you or your organization. Will it be a mistake by corporate leadership? A stupid tweet or terrible decision by a mid-level manager? Laziness by a technician or manufacturing employee that puts everything at risk? It could be all of these or any of them. So, if you don’t have a plan in place to establish the right audience, craft the correct message and get that message out in the best ways, you will find yourself standing flat footed after the race has already begun.

2 – Who is your key audience, really?

These days, especially in the midst of a PR crisis, it can feel like you’re being attacked by everyone from every direction. But that doesn’t mean you need to try to interact with every one of those people. One key aspect of an effective crisis PR plan is to build your message around the core audience you absolutely need to reach. Start there, nail that down first, before moving on to everyone else.

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3 – Are you guessing or testing?

When you take a message to market, it should already be proven. You do not want to toss an untested idea out into a rabid, raging PR crisis environment. The right step here is to test the message with actual members of your core group before you go live with the big message to the entire group.

4 – Are your communication channels optimal for your current message?

Media is shifting. Have you shifted your expectations and operations accordingly? As consumer media appetites and expectations change, you need to know who’s consuming which media in order to properly address the best market for your message.

While this is not an exhaustive list of questions you could ask, if you make sure you have good answers to these questions, you are on the right track to keeping your crisis PR plan fresh, appropriate and ready for action.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.