The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management: How to Manage the Media in the Digital Age, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management

How to Manage the Media in the Digital Age, 1st Edition

By Jane Jordan

CRC Press

320 pages | 22 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2011-03-14
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From the Japanese tsunami and the Egyptian revolution to the Haitian earthquake and the Australian floods, social media has proven its power to unite, coalesce, support, champion, and save lives. Presenting cutting-edge media communication solutions, The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management explains how to choose the appropriate language and media outlet to properly convey your message during and after a crisis.

Unveiling the secrets of how to manage the media in a crisis, the book examines how rapidly evolving social media and Web 2.0 technologies have changed the crisis management landscape. It illustrates the four distinct stages of media reporting during a crisis and details the information that must be provided. The author provides readers with a wealth of helpful tips and tools—including guidelines, checklists, and case studies that illustrate best practices in crisis media management. Divided into five sections, the book:

  • Examines how the kingdom of news has changed and considers the new hybrid model that is emerging
  • Identifies the four distinct stages in which both old and new media report a crisis
  • Addresses the use of spokespeople according to the four stages, as well as when to use the chief executive officer
  • Discusses media interviews, including how to handle news conferences, bloggers, and the importance of media training
  • Considers the communication aspects of crisis management—including how to harness the power of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, Wikipedia, Flickr, and social media releases

The book’s resource-rich appendices include a checklist for briefing a spokesperson, sample media release, a step-by-step flowchart for creating a crisis communication plan, and social media policy guidelines. Complete with a detailed guide on what tools to use and when to use them, this book provides the techniques and understanding required to communicate effectively and avoid any potential bad press and embarrassment that could result from information mismanagement.

Jane Jordan-Meier was interviewed about leadership in a crisis and the stages of a crisis in the wake of the Murdoch phone-hacking scandal. She also discusses crisis management planning in The Sydney Morning Herald and in Daily Ovation. She was interviewed in August 2011 by Globe and Mail.

Discover more about the book, including a video of the author explaining how to turn media questions into gold and visit for a series of recent interviews.

Jane Jordan-Meier appeared in a video interview with Crisis Manager Melissa Agnes on July 3, 2012.


"Jane Jordan-Meier’s insights into crisis communication are based on her experiences over many years at the coalface, guiding CEOs and organizations through the toughest of times. Her book is a must-read for any communication professional seeking an understanding of the power of social media and how the media report a crisis."

—Robyn Sefiani, Managing Director, Sefiani Communications Group, Australia

"… in the highly interactive and networked world we live in, all communication professionals need to understand how to effectively work with the media during and after crises. This book is an essential resource for doing so. Written by a highly experienced media relations consultant and savvy social media expert, this book provides practical, accessible advice and easy-to-use and apply tools and guides—all brought to life through real-world case studies."

—Michaela Hayes, Past President, San Francisco Chapter, International Association of Business Communicators

"As a full-time media and crisis trainer, I read about a dozen new books on public relations each year. Few produce the number of true "a ha" moments that Jane Jordan-Meier’s The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management did. … the book is packed with hidden gems that even the most seasoned public relations professionals can learn from. … it’s well worth the investment. I highly recommend it."

—Brad Phillips, Author, Mr. Media Training Blog

"The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management: How to Manage the Media in the Digital Age is a full-blown training course in a book. Author Jane Jordan-Meier has used her vast experience in the media, PR and media-management to craft a resource that will be invaluable to all who face, or may have to face, a crisis. … I've no doubt that every good communication professional will read and gain from this book. So should every good CEO. For as Jordan-Meier points out, the "credibility factor for CEOs (2010 Edelman Trust Barometer) was 40%" only slightly above politicians at 35%, so surely a ready-made market. Highly recommended."

—Bob Selden, What To Do When You Become The Boss: How New Managers Become Successful Managers

"This book ticks all the boxes - it's well grounded in crisis communication theory, it's written with a clear understanding of adult learning, and it's incredibly practical and actionable, making it an easy book to get a lot of actionable stuff out of to help you be better prepared for your next crisis - before it comes. … I was impressed!"

—Public Affairs Manager, Pharmaceutical Industry

"This book is a must read for owners, officers, managers and key employees of any public or private business. Emergencies happen. Unplanned consequences of natural or man-made disasters can bring a business to its knees. I have been there. This book provides an outstanding, comprehensive plan that will keep you and your business focused on what is important during any emergency."

—Gloria E. Collins, Business Executive, California

"I use this excellent book in my course called 'Media in the Business World,' a course designed for graduate students who pursue careers as business leaders. In the course, the students study the rules of the media game as seen from three perspectives: the media professionals, the business world and the academia.

"With regards to the perspective of the business world, The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management is the most up-dated and substantiated book on the market. Some reasons:

  1. The author understands how the social media work and how important they are for information sharing. She keeps reminding the readers that the old rules of the game from the time of the "old media" are still valuable, but that companies need to consider social media just as important. She also describes the difference – the old media might set the agenda and are driven by concern for democracy, while the new media are fast and autonomous.
  2. The author has a background from professional journalism as well as a background from media training with companies. One of the values of the book is that it is based on an understanding of professional journalism. Here are no superficial suggestions on how to "spin", but quite the contrary with an emphasis on key concepts like trustworthy, transparent, timely, accessible, responsible, humility, respect, experience, passion; and lots of tools for business leaders who will not only survive but strive to become master players in the game. As an example the author writes about the investigative reporters asking critical questions: "questions are gifts, but not all are attractive. And they need to be grasped with both hands – in this case, with one’s mouth!" The message is that since you cannot change the rules of the game; play them to your advantage.
  3. The book contains many case studies, and these are of major crisis in the last 10 years – again updated information about the lessons that other companies learned the hard way.

"Having been a professional journalist and journalism teacher for 35 years myself, I appreciate that Jane Jordan-Meier explains the rules of the game to business people. To some extent, it makes life easier for journalists when all the players know the rules, even though it may also make it harder for journalists to get the "good story." However, if journalists’ feelings about media training might be mixed, my business students have everything to gain from reading the book."

—Kirsten Mogensen, Associate Professor, Roskilde University

"I would highly recommend reading the book and passing it on. It may well start the most important conversation your organization will have in 2012."

Chris Syme, Strategic Communications Expert, Principal of in Bozeman, Montana

"The book addresses all aspects of planning for and managing the media in a crisis situation … [and] provides proven methods and tips for managing the information flow, including harnessing the power of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, and other social media releases. Jordan-Meier brings to bear her unique experience in media training and crisis communication principles. A worthwhile resource for anyone responsible for dealing with the media in a crisis situation. 4 stars."

—ASIS International

"One of the best and the most thorough books on crisis management in the digital age that I have ever read … a must-read."

—Crisis Manager Melissa Agnes

"Jordan-Meier brings to bear her unique experience in media training and crisis communication principles. The case studies help to illuminate the issues. This book reflects best thinking and current practices in crisis media management. It would be a worthwhile resource for anyone responsible for dealing with the media in a crisis situation."

—David P. Sayer, in Security Management

Table of Contents

Section I Media, Crisis, and New Reporting Tools

What Is a Crisis?

Unfolding Crisis

Crisis is triggered

A Crisis Stops the Show

Case in Point: Virginia Tech

The Role of Media in a Crisis

Social, Interactive, and Everywhere All the Time

Today’s News from Multiple Platforms

Old Media Play a Role in the Social Media Revolution: Social or Leave

Power to the People: The Rise of Hyperlocal News

Mainstream Media Are Still a Factor

Social Media’s Role in Crisis

Media Ethics? What Drives Traditional Media Behavior

Twitter: Is It a Fad or the "8 Bazillion Pound Gorilla"?



Pointless Babble: A Critic’s Take

Saving Lives, Saving Reputations

Breaking News: Twitter and the Media

The Power of 140 Characters

Rules of Engagement

Section I Summary

Section II Stages of a Crisis

Stage One—Fact-Finding Stage

Stage One Characteristics

Beware the ST Factor; Remember the Context

Remember the Context

Stage Two—The Unfolding Drama

Stage Two Characteristics

Stage Three—Finger-Pointing Stage = Blame Game

Stage Three Characteristics

Stage Four—Resolution and Fallout

Stage Four Characteristics

Section II Summary

Section III Spokespeople—Speed Matters

and Perception Is Everything


Golden rules

Communication style

To Chief Executive Officer or Not?

To CEO or Not?

CEO s and Social Media

Spokespeople and Social Media

Head and Heart

Role of the Frontline

Guidelines Please!

Training Please!


Policy Guidelines for Social Media

Can you Facebook at work? Policy first defense against risk

Guide—don’t stop—social media use

Section summary

Section IV Media Interviews—Rules of

Engagement in a Crisis

Understanding Journalists’ Questions

Techniques to Get Your Message Across

Bridging Technique

When You Do Not Know the Answer

Getting behind the Question

Question the Questioner

Give-and-Take in an Interview

Dealing with Difficult Questions

Q = Hypothetical

Q = Loaded

Q = Leading

Q = Either/Or

Q = Closed

Q = Multiple

Q = Guarantee

Q = Question from Hell

Handling Silence

Handling Interruptions

Never Repeat the Poison; Avoid Negative Language

How the New Media Are Changing the Rules for Interviews


Limiting Direct Access to Mainstream Media

E-mail and Blogs

Lights, Camera, Action—The Interview

Before the Interview

Know Your Audience

Know Your Key Message

Practice Your Message

Know Your Media

Know Your Dress

During the interview

After the interview

Television interviews

Dress for the Part

Face-to-Face Interviews

Animation and Gestures

Sound Good

Speak in Stand-Alone, Whole Sentences

Phone Interviews

Radio Interviews

Print Interviews

E-mail and Twitter Interviews

Dealing with Bloggers

News Conference

Managing a News Conference

Media Training

Who Should Be Media Trained?

Stage One

Stage Two

Stage Three

Stage Four

Group or Individual Training?

How Often, How Much?

Section IV Summary

Section V Communication—Rules and Tools

Why Communicate in a Crisis?

Key questions

What to Communicate?

Standby statement

To Apologize or Not—The Role of the Apology in a Crisis

Language in a Crisis—Fall in Love with We; No Toxic Language,


Positive Language, Please!

How to Get Your Message Across

Where? New Media Tools


Web Messages: Content Brutal and to the Point


Media Relations

Protect Your Brand

Hash Tags (#)


Facebook Dark Groups

Facebook: The Future

Univision: An Alternative to Facebook—Useful for the U.S. Army

Video (Including YouTube)


Blogs Are a Must-Have in Your Crisis Media Toolkit





Social Media Release

Social Media Newsroom

Social Media War Room

What Tool to Choose When?

Integrate Social Media into Planning

Monitoring: Your Best Defense in a Crisis

Section V Summary

Appendix A: Guidelines for Briefing Spokespeople

Appendix B: Sample Media Contact Information Log

Appendix C: Sample News Release

Appendix D

Appendix E: Useful Resources

Appendix F: Social Media Policy Resources

Appendix G: Social Media Resources for Crisis Communicators

Appendix H: Things You Should Not Share on Social Media

Appendix I: Wordpress Statement

Appendix J: Social Media Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risks


About the Author

A former journalist, Jane Jordan-Meier has been at the forefront of media training for 15 years, developing unique and powerful methodologies in crisis media management. From her base in the United States, she works with corporations, government departments, and non-profit agencies in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. She is recognized as one of the world’s top media and crisis management experts.

Throughout her career, Jane has worked at the highest level of strategic planning and communication, including the Australian bi-centennial celebrations and the Sydney Olympic Games. Her clients range from experienced CEOs of global corporations to those doing their first media interviews. She works with organizations in crisis as well as those wanting to raise their profile with positive media interviews. Many of her programs and training have won awards from her peers in the public relations and communication professions.

In the 1990s, recognizing the need for executives to be highly skilled in handling the media, Jane co-established Media Skills, a media training consultancy. With former journalist Susan Templeman, she created a suite of methods for developing and delivering strategic media messages. This led to the development of a unique approach to managing crisis communication. The methodology has been licensed and used by a network of trainers around the globe.

Jane is a frequent guest speaker on crisis communication and media management at conferences in Australia, New Zealand, and North America. A licensed and accredited media trainer and coach, she holds a master’s degree in communication management. She has also taught communication, at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels in Australia’s top communication schools, as well as several professional development courses in Australia, New Zealand, and North America.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Customer Relations
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Management Science
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disasters & Disaster Relief