10 Crisis Communication Tips


10 Crisis Communication Tips

How to deliver the right message

Communication is a vital part of managing a crisis. Crisis communication is, however, different from the usual communication efforts of an organization, such as communicating on a new product launch. To help you deliver the right message during a crisis, we drafted ten practical tips for crisis communication.

By Saleha Nezami, Jelle Zomer and Joeri Tolboom

Imagine, you wake up one morning and notice a multinational tech company is trending topic on Twitter and Facebook. A closer look shows they were targeted by a sophisticated malware attack. Meanwhile, rumors circulate that personal data of their clients was breached. The organization’s response? Silence.

A YouTube video shows an irritated CEO, refusing to answer questions by journalists. He argues the media are spreading false information, since no sensitive data was accessed. The following week, a statement confirming the speculations is posted online.

It goes without saying that such a response, or lack thereof, can have severe consequences. After all, in our digital era mistakes can go viral in a split second.

10 practical tips

These ten practical tips can help strengthen your crisis communication:

  1. Determine your audiences. Identify the most relevant stakeholders you should communicate to. Moreover, decide which information should be shared with whom.
  2. Use the appropriate medium. The type of medium you use should be based on the content of your message, the type of stakeholder you want to reach, and the timeframe you operate in. Social media is useful to directly reach a widespread public audience and influence public opinion. A carefully distributed email to specific stakeholders is a more targeted and discrete option. 
  3. Assign a spokesperson. A CEO or other ultimate decision maker can convey a message with appropriate authority and responsibility. An expert in the field can assure a more founded sense of control. Always choose the spokesperson that best fits the response required for your audience. 
  4. Issue a timely response. To control the developing frame of the situation, it is key to timely state your awareness and perception of the crisis. Make sure to clearly separate verified facts from assumptions.
  5. Provide a course of action. Crisis situations are often confusing and frightening. To prevent further escalation or panic, it is important to clearly inform your audience on the actions they can take. This includes immediate emergency actions or how/where to find more information.
  6. Choose your tone. Be human, not cold ‒ express your regret, shock, sadness, compassion or concern. It is important to be mindful of public sentiment, as it can make or break your reputation and recovery. In addition, be careful not to disclose certain information prior to notification of police, next of kin, clients and discussion with appropriate management.
  7. Initiate a follow-up. After a while, you should issue a response to explain the situation. You define the cause of the crisis, elaborate on the scope of the problem and who or what is affected. Make sure you are consistent across all communication channels and continue to monitor the situation to provide additional information.
  8. Emphasize the opportunities that arise because of the crisis. If appropriate, present the situation and your organization’s recovery as an example of lessons learned. Crisis response can provide insights to improve your business design and should therefore not be neglected. Show the positive side of a challenging situation.
  9. Show your responsibility. Convey your determination to "right the wrongs" and show appropriate accountability for the situation.
  10. Do as you say. Follow-up on every action you claim to take and report on it. This way, you keep your audience informed of the progress made, while presenting yourself as a dedicated and reliable organization.

More information?

Do you want to know more on crisis management? Please contact Claire Bakker via her contact details below.

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