The worst messages in a crisis are those that are vague, provide incomplete information, and obscure the full message. These messages invite speculation. No, that’s not even the worst of it: they throw gasoline on the fire of speculation. Worse, still is when that message is posted on social media, where commenters behind the freeing veil of the internet feel empowered to invent conspiracies, to make accusations, and thrive on the attention created by the controversy.
Avoid this in a crisis by stating as clearly as you can what happened and why. If you don’t know something, say so. And then, explain that you’re investigating, looking into it, continuing conversations to learn more and (and this is critical) actually do that.
Sometimes there are legal reasons for not offering full transparency, and for that, make sure that your initial message is cleared with your legal team. Perhaps there is no initial announcement or message at all. This could be relevant in a number of scenarios. But when the time comes when your crisis must be shared and addressed with your community in a public-facing platform, be ready to be as transparent and as clear as you can. You’ll be glad you did, rather than spending your time battling the damage to your brand’s reputation, correcting misinformation, and arguing against untruths on a variety of platforms.
Facing a communications crisis now? Call a professional communicator or PR person if you lack an internal resource to guide you.