Companies can never be too prepared for crisis management; by the time a crisis hits it is too late to begin preparing! Communication is one of the most important dimensions of crisis management because of the natural human tendency to turn to fear and panic when a crisis hits. Communication gets the necessary information out to the people who need it so they can take action and resolve the crisis as fast as possible. Unsuccessful or poor communication during a crisis can prolong the crisis or increase the negative effects of the crisis, which will most likely not go unnoticed by stakeholders and has the potential to permanently tarnish a company’s reputation. See below for important tips on better crisis communication.
First is to keep in mind a framework for crisis communication. A common one suggested by experts has 3 dimensions: 1) disseminate accurate information as quickly as possible, 2) respond to incorrect information that may be circulating as quickly as possible, 3) activate appropriate communication channels to keep the necessary stakeholders informed on an ongoing basis. Doing that is easier said than done, however, but that is where the other tips come in.
Next, it’s vital that initial information be kept simple, so the message for both the public and media is as clear as possible. This will help in getting it out faster and also help in minimizing confusion, which can lead to incorrect information circulating (which means less time a company has to spend fixing that incorrect information). Speaking of getting the information out faster, beyond making sure the information is factual, do not waste time in getting it out. The more time spent getting initial information out to stakeholders, the more potential for damage from the crisis to impact your company.
Having a designated primary spokesperson aids in all 3 dimensions of the crisis communication framework. All press releases and statements go through that one channel: meaning increased speed (no figuring out who should be putting out the info or getting approvals), less incorrect information because stakeholders know where to check if they experience conflicting information, and minimal time to get the communication channels activated because they are already familiar with them.
To bring this full circle, by the time a crisis hits it is too late to start trying to remember the tips noted throughout this article. Have a crisis management plan put together as soon as possible if your company does not already have one. And if it already has one, make sure it stays updated and tested to some extent so that it can shine through the darkness that crises bring.