During times of crisis, the rush to act too often leads to communications mistakes that cost you credibility and confidence.
Based on decades of crisis communications experience, C2 Strategic Communications recommends seven standards to follow:
1. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. No matter how strong your reputation and relationships, dropping the ball during a crisis will leave lasting injury. Give employees, clients and partners reason to trust you by making good, transparent decisions.
2. Honesty really is the best policy. Many leaders are good salespeople and optimists. But when bad things happen, those traits can lead to downplaying the negative and selling sunshine. Just tell people the truth because it almost always comes out.
3. Accuracy is more important than immediacy. In the rush to be first and be helpful, people are tempted to share unconfirmed or unsourced information. During a crisis, it’s more important than ever to double check all communications. Assigning a person to be the “fact checker” may be a good idea.
4. Regular communication instills confidence and creates order. Create a familiar pacing for your communications so your key audiences – employees, clients, customers and partners – can expect updates. A trusted source with a steady flow of information helps keep rumors and misinformation to a minimum. This is why smart elected officials hold daily or twice daily media briefings in times of crisis.
5. Choose the right spokespeople. The top person at a company or agency might not always be the right person to convey messages in difficult times. Select people who are regarded as subject matter experts, people who have high trust and who are at ease in difficult situations. This could mean a “coordinated team” of communicators rather than one single person.
6. Consistency is crucial. When people see changing directions, conflicting priorities or “do as I say not as I do” behavior, they can lose faith. Be consistent in your messaging. When you can’t be consistent, explain why changes in circumstance warrant a new directive.
7. Show gratitude. A good prayer begins with the words, “Thank you.” A good message to employees, customers, partners should begin and end with gratitude for the patience, hard work and understanding that many people exhibit in difficult times.