Golden Rules of Crisis Communication

Publiziert am 20.12.2017 | Übersetzung verfügbar in: Englisch

Golden Rules of Crisis Communication

Managers should be prepared if sudden crises might endanger the trust of stakeholders in a firm. The path from the area of danger will succeed with these five rules.

A crisis can have many faces – we generally understand a crisis to be situations where a brand is in danger of incurring damage in the short or long-run. The objective of crisis communication is to minimize the negative effects as far as possible and to maintain the trust of internal and external stakeholders.

1. Preparation is everything 

If an emergency should occur, this should not be the first time that you deal with a crisis. You and the most important stakeholders in the crisis are prepared and know the process that you will initiate immediately.

  • Which crisis situations could arise in the next 12-24 months, and which preventive strategies can be developed to minimize the risk?
  • How do the best and worst case scenarios look?
  • Whom will we inform first in case of a crisis?
  • Who will be in charge in case of a crisis?
  • Who will be the contact person for the public in the crisis?

These questions form the basis for a comprehensive crisis strategy – so that you will not only prevent crises, but be able to react quickly and competently in an emergency.

2. Rapid reaction

The first reaction in an emergency is decisive. No reaction at all often implies guilt and thus causes confusion, misunderstanding, or even anger, both internally and externally. Silence encourages the spread of rumors, which can become independent at the speed of lightening in the age of social and online media.

Of course it is in your interest to know the facts before you communicate. Thus the first reaction in an emergency should be to inform the public and your employees that you are currently collecting facts in order to be able to get an overview of the situation.

3. Internal communication comes before external communication 

There is a very simple way to lose employees' trust: just make sure that your employees learn of bad news or reports about your crisis from traditional media or from social media.

If you are making statements, your employees should clearly have a head start with information. Regular updates are important – even if no new facts are known, you can ensure that the workers feel included and informed.

4. Stringent and consistent messages

In case of a crisis, sorting messages in proactive and reactive categories is useful. You thus clearly define what you absolutely want to communicate proactively – and how you want to react to questions.

Formulating messages in a compassionate manner that is appropriate for the group you are addressing is equally important. You and your enterprise want to show empathy; messages that are highly technical or in factual jargon will not find acceptance in a situation that is overflowing with emotions. A monitoring of your reports in traditional and social media will show whether your messages are received in the manner you wanted them to be.

5. Visibility and accessibility for the press

Communicate openly, honestly, and transparently. Regular updates lessen the risk that the media will get the information from other sources. Keep your promises and your deadlines.

A central contact person with solid experience with the media guarantees consistency in your messages and gives the crisis a face. Otherwise, others will decide who the face of the crisis is – and you will have lost control.

This article was published on 04.12.2017 in  Handeszeitung (article in German): https://www.handelszeitung.ch/management/gastkommentar-die-funf-goldenen-regeln-der-krisenkommunikation

Does your company have a plan for crisis situations? Do you have a media savy spokes person for the worst case? Get in touch for a crisis audit or a media training – we would be pleased to advise you!

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