Crafting the Right Crisis Message

Jacque Seaman / June 22, 2020

It’s the second part of Fearey’s Fearless Series on CRISIS. Last time we discussed the elements of every crisis communications plan.

Today, we bring you CRAFTING THE RIGHT MESSAGE during a crisis.

Whether it’s COVID-19-related, a breach in consumer privacy or an earthquake, communicating effectively during a crisis scenario is critical to maintaining a positive reputation and positive relationships with your employees, customers, supporters and other stakeholders. In our first post we looked at the key elements of a crisis communications plan. While executing that plan, its critical that you are sharing the right things with the right people in the right ways.

Deploying the perfect message becomes tricky, though, when you’re under the pressure of a crisis. You must act quickly to orchestrate a meaningful and seamless response while tending to everyday business duties and operations.

In 2020, those everyday operations are likely a bit more complex during quarantine, with many of us working remote, taking extra precautions, etc.

When tension is running high, having a game plan to help you think about crafting the right message will go a long way in maintaining your sanity as well as your credibility and relationships.

Here, we outline 5 steps to crafting the right message during a crisis. 
  1. Acknowledge the details upfront.

Any message you craft should ALWAYS address the elephant in the room. Acknowledge the details upfront, whether it be a claim against your business or facts about what has happened. This might include apologizing if you are at fault or feel compelled to address an untrue claim that caused harm or negative effects on a person, community or other business. By ensuring you address the critical details upfront, you will be sure to address people’s concerns before they can take the problem and run with it.

 

  1. Be honest and transparent.

Being honest and transparent does not mean you need to give away all your information, particularly if a lawsuit is involved. Share what you feel comfortable sharing and address the concern but be careful not to put yourself  in jeopardy or open up room for additional criticism. Often it is appropriate to let people know that more information will become available later. In those cases, it is important to follow up as soon as you have the information.

 

  1. Provide value.

Always think about what value you are providing your stakeholders when addressing the crisis situation. Are you simply acknowledging the issue, or are you truly providing an update and a thoughtful response? Your stakeholders will see through empty words. Make certain that stakeholders feel you are taking the matter seriously, providing truth and doing everything you can in the context of the situation.

  

  1. Refrain from sounding defensive or aggressive.

When a crisis hits and you are getting trampled for something unfairly, never come out looking defensive or aggressive. Even if there is misinformation circulating, when countering the claims, lead with your values. Show how the the issue is not true and does not reflect your company. Point to the good qualities, systems and people that help refute the claim to lead attention away from the issue.

 

  1. Focus on what you can improve and will do moving forward.

This is particularly important if you are in the wrong whatsoever. Always include a message around what you will do to change processes or systems moving forward so that something like the event in question never happens again. Even if the issue is a misunderstanding, it goes a long way to still acknowledge what you as a company can do to improve moving forward.

In addition to thinking about the above messaging tactics, what will better serve your company in a crisis is to prepare a few draft statements to have on file. Consider the crisis scenarios most likely to impact you, particularly now, as we all navigate the daily unknowns.

Got those messages? Great! In our next post, let’s use them when we dive into CRISIS MEDIA TRAINING.

Stay tuned. Stay fearless.