Who matters most in a crisis?

August 31, 2021

Main article

Critical Takeaways:

  • In Corporate Communications and Public Relations, the word stakeholders is a fancy way to define those that matter most to an organization. We at Kith put these people into three categories: Communities, Customers, and Critics
  • At a fundamental level, what separates inferior corporate communications from superior corporate communications is the ability to focus only on those that bring value.
  • Communities are groups of people in which you share genuine interests. Customers bring economic value and your relationship with critics will constantly change.

In Corporate Communications and Public Relations, there’s this phrase that’s bandied about called stakeholders. I’ve never been very fond of the word so while working with a consulting team, we challenged ourselves to come up with an alternative and we asked ourselves, “Who matters most to you and your organization?” When thinking about a crisis and the issues that are critical at a fundamental level, inferior corporate communications tries to address the needs of everybody. Superior crisis communications meet the needs of those that matter most.

A simple way I like to think about it is this concept of communities, customers and critics. Who is affected the most about the decisions that you’re making? Who will be impacted by the situation? Do they matter most because they may have criticism or commentary about the issue? These are really important fundamental features that will help you determine who is the most important in your organization.

  • Communities are groups of people that are particularly interested: it could be a geographic region or a type of employee such as nurses or teachers. When thinking about this context of community, who are the communities that matter most to us? 
  • Your customers are not all the same. Think about your customers big and small, near and far. Does this impact a particular product? Thinking about people that write you a check is the context of those that matter most in a customer standpoint.
  • Lastly are critics such as the media, government officials, and industry competitors. You may want to put lots of different people into this category but the point is that they are not communities directly affected by your organization’s actions. They are commentators, not customers which you have an economic relationship with. These are people that have an opinion and say something about you. They could be supportive in some context but you need to understand that their relationship with you is variable.

Identifying your communities, customers and critics as those that matter most is a crucial fundamental element of understanding the best practices of great crisis communications.

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Filed under: Blog


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.