As communications practitioners, our role is to advise leaders on the best way to engage with their audience. This can be particularly challenging during a crisis.
When the 24-hour news cycle kicks into high gear, flooding people with messages, your organization must first decide what, how, when, and if you should communicate. Your decision should be driven by determining what your audiences need to know. Don’t just communicate for the sake of communicating. When weighing possible communications approaches, consider:
- Will our stakeholders expect us to do or say something now?
- Will silence be seen as not caring or as an affirmation of guilt?
- Does our response to this crisis impact our audiences’ lives in some way? For example, are we cutting back on our services, workforce, hours of operation? Are we taking any special precautions?
- Are others speaking about us now, shaping the perception of our organization?
- If we wait to communicate, will we lose the ability to influence the outcome?
- Are we doing anything to contribute in a positive way—for example, donating to a charitable cause?
If the answer is yes to one or more of the questions above, you should communicate. Here are some crisis communication tips to consider that will help you craft an effective response.
- Have an objective. Be clear about your intent. Above all, you should seek to maintain or restore the trust your audience has in your organization.
- Be direct, honest, and transparent. When a crisis hits, we often tell our clients, “Go toward the light.” Communicate clearly. Own up to your actions and decisions. Don’t hide or twist facts or speculate. Use reputable, original sources of data.
- Convey urgency—not panic. Communicate early and often. Remain positive, forward-looking, and focused on outcomes.
- Communicate, then demonstrate. If you communicate that you're putting special precautions in place, changing your policies, or donating to a cause, demonstrate how you have followed through on those actions.
- Show compassion. Crises can cause fear, confusion, and trauma. Be sensitive to your audiences’ emotions and frame of mind.
Need help with crisis communications? Contact us.