When faced with a crisis, our default reaction, strangely enough, is often paralysis; to stand in shock wide-eyed as the thoughts race through our heads and we try to pick the best course of action. Often it’s hard to tell and we delay as long as possible in making that decision. And we sure as heck don’t want to be the bearer of bad news so we limit communication and that is the number one “DON’T” in a crisis.
During a crisis is the NUMBER ONE time that you should be communicating with your publics. Think about it, whenever an earthquake or a heinous crime happens, the media is all over it keeping you informed – “oh they got the hostages out!”, “only 2 people were hurt”, “they caught the gunman”. You feel better knowing what’s going on. Same thing in your work and personal lives, when a crisis happens, your co-workers, suppliers, friends and family all feel better knowing what’s going on. It puts them at ease and lets them know that you are aware of the situation and that you are trying your best to handle it instead of running away in fear.
How to Communicate during a crisis:
- Use every medium possible to reach your customers, suppliers, (or even your spouse) – facebook, email, radio, tv, twitter, youtube etc.
- Define the problem – eg. “The much anticipated release of product XP-887 (shout out to my Mad Men fans) has been delayed.
- Give an explanation of why – eg. our mechanics noticed a headlight wasn’t shining as brightly
- Say what you’re doing to fix it – e.g. We’re currently adding some extra wiring to route more wattage to the headlight., and let them know you’ll be in touch.
- If Possible, let them know when the problem will be rectified – e.g. We should be finished in 1 hour so at 10 AM sharp be at the lot for the release of the XP-887!
- Let them know when next you’ll give them an update or just assure them that you’ll be in touch.
What if you have nothing to report? Doesn’t matter, communicate anyways, people need to hear from you. Throw an update on the facaebook page – “hey guys it’s been a hours and we’re still working to get that server back up. Again apologies for any inconvenience caused.” Your customers just want to know that you’re there, on the job.
What happens if you don’t communicate? Wild conjecture. People’s imaginations run away with them and we humans like to think the worst. “oh no, we haven’t heard anything in a few hours, have they sold all their assets and run off to South America with my money?!”. Ok fine that example was a bit extreme but I think it illustrates my point nicely. without information, your customers will speculate on what you actually are doing and deem you incapable. Your competitors will get in on this ASAP too, “At Bob’s doors, you never have to worry about rusting hinges! Switch to Bob’s Doors today!”, and you don’t want that. By Communicating, you lead your customers thoughts down the “right” path, you give them the information before someone else does. (Also applicable to personal life where gossips and malicious people abound).
So how’d your last crisis go? Next time (not being negative but life is full of these things!) don’t go radio silent, instead, make sure and have a well thought out communication strategy, maybe construct it beforehand so you know what your plan is.
Tell me in the comments about the last crisis you handled and I’ll see you guys Tuesday for the next installment here at CBT. Wishing you a productive Friday and a great weekend!