Resources > Crisis communications toolkit

Crisis communications toolkit

“Confident Voices in Critical Times” contains resources for before, during and after a critical elections incident

In recent years, the focus of election coverage has shifted from candidates to election administration. Minor errors have become major news stories. Even when everything is done right, if the public or media don’t understand a process, that can undermine trust in elections.

Confident Voices in Critical Times is a toolkit for election administrators to effectively navigate communication crises. It offers help in recognizing, planning for, and responding to these situations. In this resource, you’ll find primers, tips, templates, and examples to help improve your office’s readiness for handling crisis communications.

The Elections Group created this tool as part of the US Alliance for Election Excellence.

What you’ll need

What you’ll need

Getting started

Getting started

A communications crisis is a situation where there is a significant threat to public trust in the integrity of the election process. These crises have many potential causes, including:

  • Surges in misconceptions or incorrect information about elections
  • Technical failures in election-related equipment
  • Procedural errors
  • Legal challenges

These crises present many challenges to your communications strategy and messaging. Addressing a crisis promptly, transparently, and with a strategic plan is critical. This toolkit provides procedures, tools, and techniques you can adapt to deal with whatever crisis you face any time of year.

Using the tool

Using the Tool

This toolkit can help any election office prepare for a communications crisis. You do not need to already have any formal plans or procedures in place, but if you do, this can help supplement them. The strategies included in the toolkit are designed to work together, but you can skip around to whatever you most need right now too. The templates and samples can all be used independently.

Additionally, this resource can be used at any time throughout the election cycle. During the “off-season,” when workloads are lighter, you can really dig in and use this toolkit to design plans and strategies. During the election season, you can jump to sections most relevant to your current needs. And finally, during a crisis, you can use the tools and templates in this resource to speed up your response or get a quick refresher on the most important techniques for managing your communications.

Identifying your need

The toolkit is divided into four sections. The first three each cover a different phase of crisis communications. The last is a full section of templates and examples for you to put to use. You can read the whole resource from cover to cover, or jump around to what you need at the moment.

Section 1: Proactive Communications

Tips and templates for proactive communications – designed to help build goodwill with the media and your community.

Section 2: Crisis Communications

A primer for what to do in a communications crisis.

Section 3: After the Crisis: Best Practices

What to do after you’ve managed a communications crisis.

Section 4: Sample Crisis Communications Scenarios and Recommended Responses

Customizable templates for fast and effective responses to incidents.

Finding the templates

If you want to jump straight to a particular type of template, you can use this list to find the pages where these tools can be found.

  • Customizable Pitch Tools on page 9
  • Press Releases on pages 10-12, 31, 37, 41, 47
  • Sample Holding Statements on pages 17, 30, 36, 40, 46 
  • Talking Points on page 32, 38, 42, 48
  • Spokesperson Q&A on pages 32-33, 38, 42, 43
  • Social Media Posts on page 33, 43

Getting additional training for communications

A great companion resource to use alongside this toolkit is the Communicating Trusted Election Information series of courses, available here in the Alliance library. These six training videos cover some practical, easy-to-implement steps to improve your office’s communications. The 6th course, “Working with the Media,” is particularly relevant to building your relationships with journalists as discussed in the Proactive Communications section of this toolkit. 

Just like the different sections of this toolkit, each of the courses in this series can be used independently, so you can jump around to whatever is most relevant to what you are working on.

Customizing for your office

Customizing for your office

Any tips for customizing this resource for my office?

You should ensure that your messaging reflects the unique aspects of your jurisdiction. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Adapt the tone, style and specific information in the templates. Consider your office’s goals and values and what is relevant to the communities you serve.
  • Align your communication strategies with specific requirements or guidelines unique to your jurisdiction. Consider local legal and regulatory frameworks as well as which communications channels are most likely to reach voters in your area.

How do I know if this resource is helping?

To check the effectiveness of this resource, you can:

  • Monitor the implementation of the outlined crisis communications toolkit in your election office. Are your staff following the communications plan?
  • Track the response and engagement from internal and external stakeholders. 
  • Gather feedback through various sources such as through staff, poll workers, or voters. If you’re looking for tips on how to gather feedback, take a look at the Guide for Debriefing Elections here in the Alliance library.

You can use what you find to review and update the plan based on real-world experiences.

Which Standards of Excellence does this resource support?

  • Digital communication
  • Print communication
  • Community relationships
  • Media relationships
  • Crisis communications
  • Combatting mis/dis/malinformation

Which Values of Excellence does this resource support? Why?

Values for the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence define our shared vision for the way election departments across the country can aspire to excellence. These values help us navigate the challenges of delivering successful elections and maintaining our healthy democracy.

Alliance values are nonpartisan and designed by local election officials, designers, technologists and other experts to support local election departments.

You may find this tool especially helpful for this Value:

  • Comprehensive preparedness. This provides a structured and adaptable crisis communications plan, essential for ensuring the resilience and readiness of election offices in the face of unforeseen challenges.
  • Continuous improvement. This emphasizes the importance of regularly reviewing, updating and refining crisis communications strategies based on feedback and real-world experiences.

To learn more about the Values for Election Excellence, and to see the full list, visit the Alliance website.

Sharing feedback

Sharing Feedback

How was this resource developed?

This resource has been developed based on research, but has yet to be tested with voters or put into practice. Share your experience with this resource and improve it for your peers by reaching out via

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