Frontline Observations on Crisis Communications
April 5, 2021
With nearly 30 years of professional experience in the public and private sectors, I have worked on many different communications-related challenges, some of which have involved significant crisis situations. This type of work is interesting and challenging; and even though every crisis situation is unique and different, there are certainly some similarities I have observed while helping companies and organizations find a path forward.
Communication is communication
Crises come in many different shapes and sizes, though some are arguably more significant than others. However, the foundational communication strategies, tools and tactics used in most responses are all the same, no matter the crisis. The only thing that really changes is what is shared.
Do not overshare
When facing a crisis, people many times want to share more information than necessary, even if there is no advantage to do so. Being factual and transparent is always advised, as is being prepared to answer questions from employees, customers and/or the media. However, this does not mean you need to share every little detail of what has transpired. Less is definitely more.
Expect the unexpected
Crises can be frustrating, complicated and strange. Even if you think you have everything under control, you need to expect the unexpected because a crisis rarely unfolds the way you predict. You need to be ready to deal with any number of different scenarios; and how you react and what you say can have long-lasting ramifications to your company, brand and reputation.
Do not make the situation worse
Dealing with a crisis is already stressful, so do not make it worse by adding more drama or self-inflicted chaos to the situation. This does not mean you sugarcoat things or diminish the severity of something. Instead, understand that demonstrating and communicating transparency, empathy, strength, competency, etc. can help give others confidence in you and your decisions during a moment of uncertainty.
You are not alone
As much as it might feel like the world is crashing around you during a crisis, I guarantee someone else has already experienced something similar. This is why seeking out the assistance of crisis communication professionals, even if to use them as a sounding board, can be beneficial and help you avoid potential missteps and pitfalls that others may have experienced.
In today’s highly connected, digital world, where opinions, innuendo, rumors and news can all be easily shared with lightning speed to a large audience, the stakes for your company or organization – both reputationally and economically – can be high if you find yourself at the center of crisis or controversy. Given this, having patience, fortitude and a thick skin, along with a willingness to stay the course, are all important when dealing with crises.
Likewise, it is also important to have a solid communications strategy and crisis response roadmap in-place ahead of time – something backed by preparation and training, and that you are confident in and willing to use – which is far better than just “winging it” when the time comes. By doing this, it will help you guard against any communications-related missteps if/when something happens. Good luck!
By Mark Yontz
With nearly 30 years of professional experience, Mark provides clients with a variety of communications support – from conducting strategy sessions and communication audits to developing plans and implementing tactics. He is also a media relations expert, having written or pitched more than 600 articles for a variety of local, statewide, regional, and national publications including Family Living, The Spokesman, Teach & Travel, Farm Industry News, Michigan Living, and many more.