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how to communicate in a crisis

In Crisis Communications, Transparency is Key

By Crisis Communications No Comments

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.

Four Rules for Communicating in a Crisis: Handling the Aftermath of the Newtown, CT Shooting

By Communications, Crisis Communications

Schools and news organizations are struggling to manage communications following the tragic school shooting late last week in Newtown, Conn. We’re inundated with content about the shooter, the victims, and the ensuing battle over second amendment rights.  Friends finding the news difficult to handle are staying away from news sites, keeping the TV off and, let’s all hope, steering clear of Facebook.

If you’re in a role, however, that necessitates addressing this kind of tragedy (certainly school administrators, educators, leaders and managers of public, and presumably safe places and media) keep in mind these four guidelines for communicating in a crisis.

  1. First and foremost, express empathy for those affected.
  2. Recognize victims and those who came to their aid. At a moving vigil, our president read the names of the children killed at the elementary school.
  3. Affirm for the audience that steps will be taken to prevent this kind of incident in the future. Explain how that will happen or be addressed. Reassure the audience that safety comes first, and that the commitment to that effort is ongoing and strong.
  4. Make sure that resources are available, and how to obtain them is widely published.

These are four items anyone needing to communicate in a crisis must follow. Furthermore, it’s important to note that HIDING FROM YOUR CONSTITUENCY in the time of a crisis is perhaps the worst step to take. The NRA has taken down their Facebook page, rather than defending its position. 

Be available. Answer questions. Provide value.

Especially in a time of crisis.