Communication in a crisis situation requires professional expertise and no small amount of patience to navigate successfully. To avoid further damage to your reputation, avoid these five prominent crisis communication mistakes:
Waiting Until The Story Goes Public
In public relations, there’s something called “playing ostrich.” This method of crisis management involves crossing your fingers and hoping no one will learn about the problem – essentially burying your head in the sand. Making this glaring mistake will leave you little or no preparation time to respond when the story inevitably breaks.
Even if you haven’t decided to play ostrich, you can still damage your reputation by failing to conduct advanced preparation. Keep your options available by drafting possible responses, testing a few key messages, and planning to answer questions promptly and accurately when the public catches wind of the problem.
Making Media The Enemy
In most cases, vilifying the media comes across as scapegoating and usually doesn’t end well. This does not mean you should tolerate poor or inaccurate reporting — you absolutely should not — but better to maintain the high ground and keep it professional. If a reporter gets his facts wrong, let him know and offer to help him correct his story. If he refuses or is unresponsive, contact his editor and take your case to her.
While it is human nature — reporters are humans after all — to have bias, most reporters, editors and media outlets want to get their facts straight and report the news accurately. Be a resource, a guide and and educator to ensure that happens in your situation.
Using Industry Jargon
When you face a communication scandal, the public expects straightforward and honest answers. By filling your response with technical jargon, you risk further alienating your audience. Even worse, it’ll seem like you’re intentionally misdirecting the public with flashy words and big phrases.
The bottom line? Don’t hide behind exclusive language. Bring the public into your world, allowing them to better understand your experience.
Avoiding Your Team and Investors
Handling a crisis situation can be a lonely endeavor but it should not be. In most cases there are others — key employees, directors, PR and legal advisors — who have useful perspectives and share your interest in resolving the problem. Leverage your relationships and lean on your team. The ultimate decision may be yours but there are no points lost for seeking advice and the outcome is often better as a result.
One of the biggest traps in crisis management is the temptation to sugarcoat the facts. One obfuscation usually leads to another and before you know it you’re caught in a web of half-truths and equivocations that can seriously damage your credibility. As difficult as it may be, the best advice is usually to get the bad information out there yourself as early in the process as possible.
Remember the words of Mark Twain who was famously quoted as saying that “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
While shifting the truth may seem easier than being upfront, you can permanently damage the reputation of your company, destroy the lives of your employees and your board members, and throw yourself into a public relations abyss.
Truly, there is nothing more explosive than lying when the public already doesn’t trust you. Make this mistake, and it’s game over for everyone.
Contact an Expert to Learn More
The easiest way to avoid making these mistakes? Don’t go through a crisis alone. Get in touch with an expert who can help you organize a strategy and keep your business afloat.