As a leader in the organization, you’re going to face crises. In this latest article, “Crisis in the Organization: External Communications,” we’ll cover some great tips on how to deal with communications in a crisis.
External Communications is Important
If you’re facing a crisis in your organization, you will most likely need to deal with people who are outside of your organization. In many cases, we as leaders can overlook this area. We tend to look at the management situation inside our organization, not outside of it. However, we still need to deal with the matter of external communications with people who are on the outside and are trying to look in.
Here are some good ideas to consider when you are managing external communications of a crisis in your organization:
Recognize your target audiences and address them.
Tom Garrity, a nationally-recognized public relations expert for managing crisis situations, recommends that we address these audiences:
-Victims: show compassion to victims, whether you think that they’re a victim or not
-Employees: even though they may traditionally are the “last to know,” they are allies who can communicate the vision and mission of your organization
-Customers and vendors: engage with your customers and vendors to find solutions quickly and to communicate those solutions promptly
-The news media: we communicate in a clear, consistent and transparent manner with the media
See Tom’s presentation here: http://www.garritypr.com/expertise/crisis-communications
Be proactive as much as possible.
Tom’s firm is one of the best in regards to managing crisis communications. He shares with us a key secret. The secret involves the area of prompt and consistent transparency. When we make a big mistake, we tend to want to try to cover it up – and to keep it covered up. That’s a natural reaction. This can be a really big problem to an organization, however, especially with social media. Instead of trying to cover it up, Tom has recommended to organizations in crisis to take ownership of mistakes. Tom also shares that organizations need to be proactive. Provide plans to resolve the situation as soon as possible so that critics can’t create more problems.
Trust is compromised in a crisis. Whether or not you or your organization caused that trust to be damaged, you are seen as untrustworthy. You need to focus on regaining trust.Commit to “making things right.” Messages need to be reliable, consistent and honest. Actions need to back your messages. Make sure your team is “singing from the same song sheet”. Build and improve your message so that everyone is saying the same thing.
No one wants a crisis. No one wants to admit fault or acknowledge a failure. Within in the life of an organization, however, dealing with the communications of managing a crisis will happen. By being actively committed to clarity, consistency and transparency in the message, you’ll be able to reduce the impact.