Communicating in a Crisis

By John Wagley (print edition)

When organizations are experiencing a crisis, they must communicate with customers and other stakeholders quickly. It’s also important to be as honest as possible, to show compassion, and to avoid blaming others. These are a few of the best practices recommended by experts when it comes to crisis communications.

The popularity of social networks and blogs makes it all the more important for organizations and professionals to communicate expeditiously about a crisis, says Jane Jordan-Meier, founder of Jane Jordan & Associates, a high-risk communications consulting firm. That’s because people won’t wait to hear from the company. When a crisis occurs, one of the first sites people turn to is Twitter, she says. In the absence of direct communications from the company, people will be even more likely to pay attention to rumor, innuendo, and other false information.

To be able to respond quickly, organizations must be prepared. One way they can prepare is to make sure that their traditional public relations or communications personnel work closely with others within the company who are responsible for communication via social media, Jordan-Meier says. In many organizations, the various employees with those different responsibilities do not coordinate their communications, she notes.

Executives should meet with all of the appropriate personnel to plan how the company can present coordinated communications during crises. The plan should include a discussion of the means and the timing of communications. Organizations should make sure that they can communicate through a variety of channels. These could include the telephone and e-mail in addition to blogs and sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Those multiple avenues of communication provide redundancy if one fails but also, it’s important to reach “stakeholders by ways that they prefer,” says Jordan-Meier. She advises organizations to practice implementing the plan to make sure that it can be carried out as intended.

(Click here to continue reading "Communicating in a Crisis," from our October 2012 issue)

photo by daveynin/flickr


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