When there is potential for a crisis to take place, or one has happened and an organization needs to recover from it, one of the critical aspects of overcoming this issue is communication.
Communication in business, like any aspect of life, is important. It’s important for people to feel both heard and understood and for them to feel as though pertinent information is being given to them. Sharing information clearly, concisely and in a timely manner is important at the best of times, but during a crisis it is important that accurate information is shared so it can be acted upon.
In the business environment this could include a range of natural and man-made disasters that could affect an organization’s ability to do its work, legal risks, project risks, financial risks and security risks.
There are seven generally accepted rules when it comes to risk communication that were devised by the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA:
1. Accept and involve the public as your partner
By doing this you need to recognize your partner as an equal, not as someone who you must educate or correct. You need to ensure that your partners understand what you believe is important about the situation so you can have an effective discussion about it. The don’t have to support your beliefs.
2. Careful planning and evaluation
You should take into account a range of different scenarios and plan your communications objectives, audiences and circumstances accordingly. Choose the most effective communication channels for the job. For example traditional media and social media for external audiences, email or a mass notification system such as DeskAlerts for internal audiences.
3. Listen to the specific concerns of your stakeholders
Not only it is important to provide information to your stakeholders, but you may also not completely understand the situation from their perspective. You might not have the full picture and this can only be achieved by consulting with and listening to stakeholders to address their concerns.
4. Be transparent and honest
If you are caught out in a lie, you can lose any trust you have built and never regain it. In fact that you can even do more damage to an already precarious situation.
5. Include credible sources
Working with a range of other organizations to pose a united front with the same information gives you more legitimacy in the eyes of your stakeholders.
You need to be responsive to the time pressures and deadlines created by both traditional media and social media in order to get your message out when you need to.
7. Speak clearly and compassionately
Show empathy to your affected stakeholders. If they are angry or scared, acknowledge this. Speak in plain English in a clear way that is easy to be understood.
Your messages should also be consistent, whether you are speaking to an internal or an external audience.