5 common mistakes to avoid in crisis communication
When I first heard about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall I thought, “Ouch. This one’s gonna hurt if they don’t respond quickly.” But as their situation continued to play out, I started examining Samsung's crisis response more closely, and I couldn’t help but think about what I would or would not have done if that were my company or client.
I recently had the opportunity to attend PRSA's “Effective Crisis Response” workshop with Helio Fred Garcia and Adam Tiouririne, where I learned some great pointers on crisis communication. Now I can’t help but think of these whenever I hear about a crisis.
Below are five of the most common crisis communication mistakes companies make (and how to avoid them):
• Believing that silence is golden. This may be true when you’re in elementary school, but for businesses in the midst of a crisis, silence is often seen as indifference or, worse, as an affirmation of guilt. If the issue is made public or the company is at risk of losing the ability to influence the outcome, you need to respond ASAP.
• Reacting instead of responding. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and rush to get a statement out. But as we’ve seen recently with Samsung and the recall, speaking too quickly without checking facts first can be equally – if not more – damaging to a company’s bottom line.
• Lack of remorse. Remember that little company called BP that caused the biggest oil spill in US history? Yeah, so does everyone else. The CEO’s lack of accountability and seemingly insincere statements have become a textbook example of what not to do in crisis communication. An effective statement should always be centered around your customers and acknowledging any difficulties they may be facing as a result of the situation.
• Not listening to stakeholders. It’s important that not all decisions are based on one person’s thinking alone. Involve key stakeholders when necessary, and consider how each group could potentially be impacted. Example: that time when Wells Fargo pissed off the wrong person. The company also failed to communicate to its board before some of the issues were made public. Ouch.
• Not having a crisis communication plan. Ever notice how crises always seem to happen at the worst possible times? Avoid the frantic calls and hurried statements by having a pre-approved plan in place. Acknowledge any potential issues your organization could face and establish procedures for those you can’t predict.
Bad things happen – even to good people and good organizations – but it’s how you handle those bad things that matters most. Communicate swiftly and clearly, take responsibility and demonstrate action – your company and your customers will thank you for it.