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Effective communication during a crisis

In times of crisis, effective communication is critical to minimise reputational harm and instil confidence in your organisation and brand.

We all know a crisis can hit a business at any time. But, how quickly you respond and the way you respond will determine how your organisation survives a crisis or, indeed, if it does survive at all.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, a public health emergency, a financial meltdown, an accident, or even a ransomware attack that disrupts your business, it is important to ensure everyone knows what to do and what to say when the worst happens.

Effective-communication-during-a-crisis

Time is critical

If you are involved in a crisis, time is critical.

The longer you are silent, the greater the risk someone else will speak on your behalf and control the narrative.

“No comment” is not the answer. Not only is it a missed opportunity but it can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, it can make you appear untrustworthy, and it can portray a lack of empathy.

Clear and concise communication

Clear and concise communication is paramount during a crisis. When chaos reigns and uncertainty looms, people seek information they can easily understand and act upon.

Jargon, technical terms, and convoluted language can make it harder for people to comprehend and understand your key messaging. In fact, ineffective communication can exacerbate the disaster, fuelling panic in the community and further damaging your brand and reputation.

Communication during a crisis must be simple without sacrificing accuracy. Important details such as safety instructions, available resources, and immediate steps to be taken should be communicated in a straightforward manner, leaving no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.

Transparency

Honesty breeds trust. In a crisis, people need to know the facts, even if they are difficult to digest.

Concealing information or providing misleading statements can erode credibility and exacerbate the situation. Transparency builds confidence in leadership and allows individuals to make informed decisions.

By acknowledging the severity of the crisis, addressing people’s concerns, and sharing updates as they emerge, companies can foster an atmosphere of trust that is crucial for cooperation and an effective response.

Empathy

In times of crisis, emotions are heightened, and individuals may be grappling with fear, anxiety, or loss.

It is vital to acknowledge these feelings and demonstrate empathy. Being compassionate and showing you understand the challenges people face, as well as recognising their emotions, can go a long way in offering solace and support, and ultimately loyalty to your brand.

It is important to let victims of a crisis know they are not alone and that their wellbeing is your priority. This can help alleviate distress and foster a sense of unity.

Multi-channel approach

People receive information in so many different ways whether it be via social media, mainstream media, calls, texts, or emails. This means during a crisis, you need to utilise a multi-channel approach to ensure information reaches as wide an audience as possible, as quickly as possible.

Diversifying communication channels helps prevent misinformation.

Consistency

Consistency in messaging is crucial. Conflicting information from various sources only leads to confusion and distrust. You need to coordinate your messaging through various stakeholders to ensure that messaging is aligned. This consistency helps to establish a clear narrative that individuals can rely on and follow.

Timeliness

In a crisis, information changes quickly and becomes outdated. Timely communication is imperative to keep the community informed as the situation evolves and, importantly, to let impacted customers know if there is any action required that they can take.

Delays in communication can hinder your response and potentially exacerbate the crisis.

Two-way communication

Communication during a crisis isn’t just about broadcasting information. It is also about listening.

Creating avenues for feedback, questions, and concerns enables you to address specific issues and correct any misconceptions as they arise. Social media platforms, hotlines, and community forums are some of the ways to boost two-way communication and foster a sense of engagement and trust.

Flexibility and adaptability

Crisis situations are often fluid and dynamic. Effective communication requires you to be flexible and adaptable as circumstances change. As new information arises and the situation evolves, your communication strategies also need to be adjusted. By being flexible and adaptable, you can introduce new data, insights, and information, ensuring your messaging remains accurate, relevant, and up to date.

Be crisis ready

To ensure you are ready to respond quickly to a crisis, undergo media training so that you are confident to say “yes” to any media requests that will no doubt come your way. Being media ready means you can act quickly to control the narrative, helping to minimise any damage or harm to the reputation of your business or organisation.

 

Effective communication in a crisis is an intricate dance that requires a lot of know-how, energy and hard work. It is the cornerstone of crisis management and helps guide you and your organisation through what could be the most challenging time you’ll ever face. The more effective you are at communicating during a crisis, the greater the chance reputational harm will be minimised.

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