Our world is currently going through a massive crisis of an unseen format. Although it has an impact on each and every one of us, some businesses are really going through the wringer. The last thing you want to do as a company is making a crisis worse by not communicating, or not doing so in an appropriate way.
So let’s take a look at some general rules of crisis communication; be it a global crisis such as COVID-19, or one personally linked to your company.
In crisis communication preparation is half the battle. The first three key rules we’ll be discussing, are to be taken care of before a crisis actually hits.
1. Identify a crisis communication team
A small team of senior executives should be identified to serve as your organization’s internal crisis communication team. The question is: who? In an ideal situation, the CEO will lead the team, with a public relations manager and legal counsel to advise. Depending on the nature of the crisis, you may also want to involve the heads of your major organizational divisions. If you don’t have an in-house PR manager or he/she does not have enough crisis communication experience yet, it’s smart to hire a communication agency that can advise and support you.
2. Media train one spokesperson
You should have a single spokesperson who operates as the face and voice of your company. This can be the CEO, the PR manager or even someone else from the company. What matters most, is that this person is at ease when dealing with the media. He or she should know how journalists work and think, and know how to transfer a message to them. So a proper media training, including interview and video training, is not an unnecessary luxury.
3. Prepare holding statements
While you obviously can’t develop a full message before a crisis hits, holding statements can be developed in advance to be used for different scenarios that may occur. Identify potential crises and proactively define how to deal with them and what to communicate.
The following three rules then apply to when the crisis actually hits.
4. Don’t lie
Many studies demonstrate the power of truth. When companies own up to their mistakes and take action to prevent them from happening again, they usually come out pretty fine. Lies on the other hand have a tendency to catch up on you, so don’t. However, telling the truth does not mean that the audience should know every little detail of the situation.
5. Keep it simple
No need for long, detailed stories about how or why things happened. Instead go for a short, simple message that is easy to understand for a broad audience and focus on the resolution at hand.
6. Who, what, where, when, why and how
While keeping your message simple, you must also realize that the media become very hungry during a crisis. They are usually looking for the who, what, where, when, why and how of the crisis. So make sure you provide this information to avoid speculation and guessing.