Anyone who runs a company knows that this day X will come when something goes wrong. Either in external or internal communication. No one is protected from being misunderstood, especially in times of social media, or from making a mess of something through carelessness. But what to do when the shitstorm rolls? Then it needs one thing above all: good crisis communication.
Crisis communication should definitely be trained before the crisis is here. Nothing is more tragic than panicking when the child has already fallen into the well. Often, more mistakes are then added on top of the actual one. After all, nothing less is at stake than protecting the company’s image.
Negative crisis communication
The diesel scandal in Germany is an example of crisis communication that is not worth imitating. You will remember: In 2015, manipulations of the exhaust emission values of diesel vehicles from various car manufacturers, including Volkswagen, were uncovered. Instead of reacting appropriately immediately, there were cover-up attempts. But it did not stop there. There was a fundamental lack of transparency and the scattering of inaccurate and incomplete information confused consumers.
Another issue was that the boards of some car manufacturers shifted responsibility to others. This further undermined public confidence. Many customers rightly felt abandoned by the companies concerned. In the end, the crisis led to a considerable loss of image and credibility for the car manufacturers concerned.
Good crisis communication
Good crisis communication in companies is therefore crucial to maintain trust with donors and customers, to minimise the impact of a crisis and to protect the company’s image. We have summarised the most important points that are essential when designing effective crisis communication.
#1 Rapid response: A delayed response can lead to speculation and rumours that further undermine confidence in the company. So the motto is: react as quickly as possible!
#2 Transparent communication: Cover-ups add to the confusion. Transparent and honest communication about the situation is important. This includes clear information about the crisis, its impact and the measures the company is taking to deal with it. Avoid hiding facts or withholding important information.
#3 Consistent messages: Ensure that all corporate communication channels (press releases, social media, internal communication, etc.) convey consistent messages.
#4 Clear responsibilities: Assign clear responsibilities for crisis communication. There should be a defined group of people who are responsible for communication and can effectively convey the company’s messages.
#5 Target group specific communication: Take into account the different needs and expectations of the different groups (clients, employees, investors, media, etc.) and adapt the communication accordingly.
#6 Active media relations: Work proactively with the media to ensure that your messages are properly understood. Provide clear and concise information to journalists and make experts available to answer questions.
#7 Involve employees: Communicate clearly and regularly with employees internally. They are important ambassadors for the company and can help to get the message out.
#8 Monitor media and social media: Actively monitor what is being said in the media and social media about your company and the crisis. Respond appropriately to questions, comments or rumours and correct any misinformation.
#9 Ability to learn and adapt: Learn from the crisis and continuously improve your crisis communication. Analyse what worked well and what can be improved and adapt the communication strategy accordingly.
Learning from others
It is important that the company acts empathetically, responsibly and professionally during a crisis. y communicating transparently and proactively, addressing stakeholder needs and responding appropriately to feedback and concerns, trust can be restored and your organisation’s reputation protected.
Every now and then it also helps to observe other companies and learn from them – in both a positive and negative sense. Keeping in mind how poor crisis communication affects the trust of the public, stakeholders and the media, you can learn from this and ensure that your own response to crisis situations is managed effectively and responsibly.