If you are a business owner facing a crisis situation, what should your first move be? In his book, “Manager's Guide to Crisis Management,” Jonathan Bernstein outlines five crisis communication requirements for any crisis response: his “tenets of crisis communication.” Bernstein suggests determining key messages before a crisis occurs and ensuring those messages are prompt, compassionate, honest, informative and interactive. What does this mean, though?
Defining Crisis Communication
Crisis communication is defined as the identification of a threat to an organization along with its stakeholders. Understanding how to respond by using the “tenets of crisis communication.” can help an organization stabilize a rocky situation before it gets out of hand.
The 5 Crisis Communication Requirements
What are the five crisis communication requirements and why are they important?
You don't want to wait too long to react to a crisis once it has been brought to the forefront. If you need to respond, you should respond quickly to prevent rumors from spreading, which could be more damaging to a company than the crisis itself.
While facts are important, in a crisis, emotions are running, so you need to show that you actually care about the situation and are trying to make it right. Whether your company caused the crisis or is being impacted by one, show compassion in both your actions and your messages.
This should go without saying, but do not, under any circumstances, lie. You must be honest, or else things can spiral even further out of control. In the midst of a crisis, it may be tempting to try to say anything to make the attention go away or cover up the problem. But remember that lies will resurface, especially when people are shining the spotlight on you.
During a crisis, people want answers. Be forthright with those answers, or else your audiences will go to other sources or jump to their own conclusions, which might be completely off base and detrimental to your reputation.
Because we live in a social world, you cannot put out messages and expect your stakeholders—internal or external— to just accept them at face value. You must enable conversations. You must be willing to field questions and calm nerves and frustration. This way it shows you have nothing to hide, are cooperating and are coping under fire.
Sometimes, how you handle a crisis will determine whether your company will be forgiven or not, and can affect whether or not you recover.
Want to learn more about crisis communications? Check out “Crisis Communications Tips: Resources for When a Crisis Strikes”