Navigating crisis in the ‘Super Election Year’

In a poll-bound region, media scrutiny intensifies, meaning any incident, however minor, is likely to be amplified
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By Apoorva Shridhar
Crisis Communications Manager

2024 is being hailed as the “year of the vote.” With a record-breaking number of national elections, some two billion voters in more than 80 countries will cast their ballots. High-stakes battles are dominating news coverage and global conversations, from incumbent US President Joe Biden seeking a second term to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi aiming for a third, and Mexico on the cusp of creating history by electing its first woman president.

Across continents, diverse issues fuel electoral discourse, ranging from economic prosperity and social justice to environmental sustainability and global cooperation. Political leaders highlight these themes to showcase their opponents’ incompetence, hoping to sway voters. But what happens when an incident occurs in a politically charged atmosphere?

In a poll-bound region, media scrutiny intensifies, meaning any incident, however minor, is likely to be amplified. Political leaders seize such opportunities to politicize crises, vilifying the responsible party and attacking the incumbent government’s competence to garner voter support.

Take, for instance, the plastic pellet spill on Spanish beaches from a cargo ship off Portugal in January. Initial media coverage focused on environmental and livelihood concerns in the Galicia region, with coverage waning as clean-up operations progressed. However, two weeks before the 2024 Galician regional elections, the crisis re-emerged in headlines. Political leaders exchanged accusations, leveraging the crisis to appeal to the voter’s emotional sensibilities, resulting in a surge of media and social media reactions focusing more on the shipping company’s failures than ongoing clean-up efforts.

How you respond to an incident in an electorally charged environment is critical to public perception of your culpability. Interested parties can capitalise on your crisis to fuel their political agendas. If you don’t respond effectively, people are more likely to trust emotionally charged statements from their favourite candidates. It’s crucial to consider the impact of these events and be prepared to pivot to a proactive communication strategy to control the narrative and ensure accurate details are communicated.

Here are some tips to manage a crisis in a politically charged atmosphere:


  • Monitor public sentiments: Stay ahead of the curve by actively monitoring public sentiment. During an election, an active crisis can become highly politicized, influencing voter perceptions. Monitoring public sentiment helps you anticipate such moves and prepare counter-narratives that highlight your efforts and successes in managing the crisis.


  • Show, don’t just say: Lord Hewart, former Lord Chief Justice of England (1924) said, “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.” People are more likely to believe you if you provide tangible evidence of your crisis response efforts. This could mean sharing high-resolution images, and videos of clean-up operations or environmental impact assessments, highlighting your proactive steps and the positive outcomes of your actions. Transparency and visible action build credibility and trust with your audience.


  • Collaborative approach: It is important that your side of the story is heard and not overshadowed by political rhetoric. This requires proactive engagement with external stakeholders, including journalists, local community leaders, environmental groups, and NGOs during a crisis. Building these relationships helps reinforce your message through trusted voices.


  • Empathy and reassurance: This is your chance to show that you genuinely care about the incident and its impact on the community. Your communications should reflect understanding and compassion, addressing the fears and anxieties of affected communities. Share stories of your efforts to support those impacted and present clear, actionable solutions about the steps you are taking to mitigate the crisis and prevent future occurrences.


In this high-stakes environment, every action is magnified under the political spotlight. These strategies will enable you to navigate the complexities of a politically charged landscape, thus safeguarding and enhancing your organisation’s invaluable reputation.

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