Bennis Inc. | How to Communicate a Consistent Message During a Crisis
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How to Communicate a Consistent Message During a Crisis

How to Communicate a Consistent Message During a CrisisNo one ever wants a crisis to strike. In fact, simply talking about this devastating news can be enough for many business owners to change the conversation. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but talking about your crisis communication plan NOW can save you a lot of stress and damage in the future, should a bad situation actually occur.

Crisis communication is one of the key topics covered by the Public Relations umbrella. Fortunately my clients have only experienced a few inconveniences or setbacks, but no major crises. However, we still plan for them! Having a plan in place ensures that you stand ready to quickly and appropriately address such issues to minimize negative impact to your brand and business.

One of the most important elements to a good crisis communication plan is knowing how you will craft and share a consistent message. Without further ado, let’s jump right in with my top five, no-nonsense tips for achieving this in a crisis situation. Take a look!

Establish the facts.

In the event of a crisis, information and questions are likely to circulate quickly, both internally and externally. However, not everything being shared is going to be fact. Communicating a consistent message begins with separating what is true from what is false or speculated. Begin by working internally with your communications team to identify the facts you know at this time. Write them down in the form of bullet points and refer to them throughout these next steps.

How to address unknown details or private information you cannot share at this time.

Among the facts, you are likely to have sensitive information that should remain private to the media until a later date. This may include releasing the names of victims or sharing allegations before charges are made final. In such instances, it is acceptable to tell the media “Such details cannot be shared at this time.” You can maintain credibility by adding “We will keep you updated as soon as we have more information to share.”

If you only have partial information about a situation, set an internal deadline for how long you can afford to wait for the rest of the facts before speaking to the media. If this deadline passes without more information, use the phrases bolded above to communicate to the media that the information is not fully available to you at this time, but you plan to announce such details as soon as they become known.

Bring it all back to your core mission statement.

Communicating the details of a crisis situation is often unpleasant and uncomfortable. You can buffer the blow of this hard news by concluding your press release or public statement with the reiteration of your business’s core mission statement. If you do not have a preformatted mission statement, now is the time to prepare one.

Share the message internally, so all members of your staff can repeat the same message.

Now that you have identified that facts you can share publicly and have incorporated your core mission statement into your crisis messaging, it’s time to first share this internally with your staff. The goal of this step is to get everyone on the same page. People who may have been exposed to false information, or who may be completely unaware of the crisis, will be empowered with the facts. Your staff can help serve as your ambassadors during this difficult time. Involve them and equip them with the proper information to do so!

Get the message out on all communication channels available to you.

Finally, disseminate your crisis messaging across all channels available to you. Consider these ideas: website’s homepage, social media accounts, press release, email announcement or a printed letter mailed to all parents.

Have you ever had to deal with a crisis situation? Share your best practices for communicating a consistent message – and preserving your brand by commenting below!

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com