Danish Malik
Guest Article

Effective crisis communication strategies for government bodies

Our guest author highlights the insufficiency of relying solely on press releases and website statements to meet modern consumer expectations during a crisis.

In today's business landscape, encountering struggles and crises is a reality. The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that traditional media sources are losing trust among consumers, while 92% of millennials put their trust in influencers.

Thus, influencer marketing has become a valuable tool in PR strategies for 2022. Relying solely on press releases and website statements won't satisfy modern consumers' expectations during a crisis.

To effectively manage crises, brands must leverage various communication channels, including social media, and collaborate with the right influencers. By doing so, brands can maintain a positive image, effectively handle emerging situations, and navigate tough times with greater confidence.

One of the examples is the state of Kerala, which has experienced a notable crisis each year since 2017, including the Nipah virus outbreak in 2017, the devastating floods in 2018, and the once-in-a-century Covid-19 pandemic in 2019.

These recurring crises have served as valuable learning opportunities for both state and central governments. Through these experiences, they have developed and implemented effective crisis management policies and established appropriate institutional frameworks to address and mitigate future crises.

Prepare a Communication Plan Before a Crisis Occurs

The crisis communication plan acts as a framework to respond efficiently to diverse crises, such as natural disasters, data breaches, or legal issues, safeguarding the organisation's brand and reputation.

While it's impossible to foresee every potential event, having a robust crisis management policy in place is imperative for any professional organisation facing threats to its reputation. By prioritising crisis communication, organisations can mitigate the impact of crisis and maintain credibility even in challenging times.

Effective crisis management relies on evidence-based communication, delivering truthful information to stakeholders, and enabling informed attributions. Crisis managers must skillfully frame their side of the story to avoid media or third-party manipulation.

A crisis management plan focuses on how the company will respond and communicate during a crisis, ensuring timely and consistent information reaches employees, partners, customers, media, and the public. The message depends on the crisis's nature and impact on all parties involved.

Some strategies that allow organisations to restore trust and address public concerns include: Assembling a Communication Strategy Team, Conducting a Community Risk Assessment, Assessing the Current Capabilities and Limitations, Consulting with the Public, and Setting the Standard for Public Communication.

Framing Government Action During Crisis

Crisis communication by governments uses legitimation strategies and pre-existing social representations to make actions coherent and familiar to the public.

Analysing government crisis communication is feasible and relevant, given accessible, reliable, and consequential communication data, especially during confinement measures.

Framing processes are vital for mobilising social action and populations during a crisis. However, if government and recipient frames do not align, they can have demobilising effects. Therefore, frames play a significant role in crisis communication analysis.

Here are instances of the government’s communication with the general public during the crisis through three channels: Ministers, the Head of State, and the Prime Minister.

Emmanuel Macron’s Speech Addressing War

During the crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron used a consistent war approach, portraying the virus as an external enemy. He emphasised the need for general mobilisation and crisis management as a war effort on March 12 and March 16, respectively.

His March 20 address was entirely structured around war metaphors, referring to "falling" nurses and "fighting" against the virus. He called for national unity, employing a militarised frame with elements of nationalism, paternalism, and heroism.

In contrast, other government members took different approaches. The Prime Minister adopted a more emotional human interest framework in his seven discourses, mentioning war only three times.

Some ministers appeared unaware of the President's crisis communication decisions, leading to difficulties in explaining government guidelines during press conferences.

In his April 13th address, President Macron shifted away from the war rhetoric, focusing more on compassion, uncertainty, and seriousness in addressing the crisis.

Boris Johnson’s Approach to the Crisis

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a proactive and pragmatic approach to the crisis until his hospitalisation. He personally explained the significance of hand-washing and often stressed the role of the National Health Service (NHS) as part of the national effort.

He hosted daily briefings and presented the latest statistics and government responses to the crisis, involving fellow officials and advisors in decision-making. The briefings' lecterns visually represented the UK's shift from a casual stance to a serious treatment of the crisis.

Initially displaying a coat of arms, they later featured three slogans, "Stay Home," "Save the NHS," and "Save Lives," adorned with bright yellow colour and red bars, akin to safety tape by the time of Johnson's hospitalisation.


Effective communication plays a crucial role in managing crises and public relations. Providing accurate information through various media channels empowers the public to assess risks and mitigate the impact of the crisis.

It requires accountability, consistency of messaging, and responsible use of information by both communicators and the public. By working together, people can overcome a crisis and achieve the singular purpose of resolving the situation effectively.

(Our guest author is Danish Malik, Co-Founder & CEO of Boomlet Group)

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com