Early Education Franchise

Crisis Management Training: How to Handle a Crisis Situation in the Media

An SPR Client Case Study


In 2012, unfavorable articles about a national early education franchise surfaced and the franchise was not prepared to speak in front of media, so SPR Atlanta stepped in to train their team how to handle a crisis situation.


SPR Atlanta began working with a national early education franchise, following unflattering news articles about license-exempt child-care programs. Though the articles covered a variety of early education centers in the Atlanta area, this franchise was mentioned briefly. This opened the leadership team’s eyes to their vulnerability. The corporate office and franchisees across the country were not prepared to speak to media following a crisis, much less reaching out to them proactively.


Crisis communication is SPR Atlanta’s specialty. Our main goal was to prepare the franchise’s corporate office and leadership on how to handle a crisis situation. SPR Atlanta wanted to train and educate the leaders of the franchise to give them the tools they needed to address the crisis internally and with the news media.


SPR stepped in to help the franchise prepare for any situation. SPR began by meeting with the corporate office and a few franchisees across the country to learn more about the processes and culture. We created a “Media and Crisis Communications Checklist,” which was distributed to each franchisee. This document, which was laminated and often hung in the front offices, included a checklist for crisis planning, tips for working with the media and phone numbers for the SPR Atlanta team, as well as reminders for the spokesperson at each location.

We also conducted crisis communication training at regional meetings and at the annual convention. At these trainings, SPR reviewed and distributed the Checklists, discussed possible crises, conducted role playing scenarios and garnered possible proactive story ideas for future media relations.


In the months following our training, crises arose across the country. SPR empowered and assisted franchisees throughout each one, which sometimes included media relations, social media or messaging, and other times it included creating eNewsletters or videos. The franchisees were well equipped to manage crisis with SPR’s support, and SPR was able to proactively place positive stories targeted to different regions, demographics and other audiences. Whether the franchisee called SPR at 8 p.m. on a Friday with a question or needed SPR to fly to their location to produce a video, SPR team members were always ready.

A few examples include:

  • When a director of an early education center in Georgia, who had added several of the parents of children at the school as friends on Facebook, began posting unsightly commentary about a presidential candidate, parents became upset. The director removed the post from her wall, but the damage had been done. The franchisee called SPR, and we sprung into action. SPR was able to create a video and eNewsletter with the owner, which we then sent to all parents and gave the owner guidance on leading a meeting. In the video, the owner expressed her deepest apologies and employed the strategies SPR had taught in her crisis training. The owner also worked with SPR to create a social media policy for staff members to ensure this did not happen again. Following the outreach, the owner was relieved to receive positive feedback and appreciation that she had reached out and handled the situation quickly and with authority.
  • Before SPR partnered with the early education franchise, a franchisee in South Carolina had dealt with an abuse scandal involving one of the teachers. The trial for this teacher was to begin in 2012, while SPR was representing the franchise. We offered to advise the franchise for one hour complimentary, as we offered to all franchisees. We began a proactive campaign to show transparency and action by the franchisee. We drafted statements and releases, and we created a media list and continued to monitor the conversation surrounding the trial carefully. SPR assisted the franchisee in writing a letter to parents about the trial, and ultimately the trial ended in a short amount of time. Following the trial, the franchisee received the following email, which reinforced our advice to be transparent and was a positive ending for a difficult period in this franchisee’s business career.
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