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3 crisis comms lessons from President Nixon’s ‘moon disaster’ speech

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, President Nixon’s ‘in the event of a moon disaster’ speech has been released, a powerful and poignant speech which would have been used if the worst had happened on the mission.

Although we hope never to have to deal with a crisis on this hypothetical scale, there is a lot we can learn from this.

1 – Plan ahead

This speech may have been one of a few that the communications team had prepared. Thinking ahead to what potential outcomes there could be and planning for all eventualities means that, should things go wrong, everyone that needs to be is prepared and you’ll have a plan that’s well thought through, rather than something done in the heat of the moment.

2 – Honesty and integrity

The speech explains the incident within the first paragraph, leaving people in no doubt, and additional details are given later. The speech shows sympathy but also pride in the men on the moon. Think about the potential incidents that you are planning for and the emotion that your spokesperson should and would be conveying.

3 – Lines of communication

President Nixon was to phone the widows directly, should a disaster have occurred. And, following that, there will have likely been a series of communications lines to ensure everyone was informed in the right order. In a crisis, think about your stakeholders and plan who should know what, in what order, and from whom.

You can read the speech here.

We have extensive experience in managing communications around reputational threats and crises. Find out more here.