Communicating in a Crisis

Don’t Shut Down Communication

© iStockphoto/SchulteProductions

When a crisis or some other adverse situation occurs, the natural instinct is to close ranks, work furiously to contain the damage, and set the situation back to normal.

We go into protection mode – for both our organization and ourselves. However this approach can go badly wrong.

We've all seen major companies terribly wounded when the press senses a "cover up." And we may also have seen situations where gossip has spiraled out of control with damaging results.

When official communication channels are shut down, communication does not stop. In fact it can often increase. The problem is that this communication can be full of rumor, innuendo, inconsistencies, half truths, and exaggerations. More than this, the trust and confidence of employees and clients can be undermined, with often-damaging long term consequences.

This is where the best thing to do in a crisis can be to communicate the facts and issues surrounding them clearly, quickly, and consistently.

Tip:

On one hand, life is full of ups and downs, and you'll look silly and out of control if you are often conducting crisis communication. Also, you need to be careful about communicating information that can itself damage you.

On the other, trust is essential in business. If people feel that you, your brand or your company can no longer be trusted, this can be fatal for your business. Customers may prefer to go to a more trustworthy competitor. Teamwork may break down. Employees may move jobs. And people will be more cautious in dealing with you, raising the costs of doing business.

Staying in Control

What's important in a crisis is to stay in control of communication. These five Cs of communication that can help when communicating bad news:

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