Communicating in Times of Crisis
Effective communication is not only a key element of best business practices but should also be a critical component of your business continuity management plan. Begin by developing a common theme throughout all your communication pieces. This theme will reflect your corporate values and contain clear and specific information and objectives. Next, identify all parties that have an interest or stake in the issue at hand. Building partnerships can add credibility as well as confidence in the message. Know who your intended audience is and identify mechanisms to listen, understand, and reach out to them. This includes recognizing information patterns, processes, channels, and reliable sources.
Your message needs to be consistent as well as credible. Establish trust and dialogue with the media, your community, advocacy groups, others in your field, and the public at large. Be open, realistic, and human; after all, no one has all the answers, so be up-front about what you can and cannot do. Speak with compassion, acknowledge and respond to emotions, and work to maintain the relationship you have with your audience.
Finally, when the dust settles, evaluate what went well, what did not go as well as hoped for, and what you will do differently next time. According to the Center for Ethics in Political & Health Communication, your overriding goal should be to have a plan, be proactive, and focus on people.
Mallary Tytel President and Founder Healthy Workplaces Sioux Falls, S.D.