Crisis Communications: Rule Number 1 – Communicate!


It seems like an obvious rule, but all too often we see examples in the news of companies failing to implement the most important factor of any crisis communication: actually communicating.

The Costa Concordia cruise ship incident has been plastered all over the news this week and with the ongoing debate of how this disaster happened continuing, I have been eagerly looking at the reaction of the cruise ships owners, Costa Cruises.

So what have I found? Truth be told, the answer is very little. There seems to be few, if any, statements from the company in much of the news coverage. This lack of communication is leading to widespread gossip about the whole incident and with each negative tweet or article the reputation of the organisation is sinking as quickly as the ship.

Have we learnt nothing from the BP oil disaster not too long ago? BP were highly criticised for their lack of communication during the crisis and I had hoped many organisations would take this example on board (no pun intended).

The key rules any organisation should follow when handling a crisis are:

1)      Communicate – don’t disappear off the radar the second disaster strikes. Communicate with the public and the media with constant updates. If an extended period of time has passed between communications, let them know you are still working and have nothing to report

2)      Don’t lie – liars get caught out eventually, and once they do the damage done to their reputation can often be irreversible

3)      Apologise – obviously I’m not suggesting you implicate your organisation or suggest you are fully to blame, but an apology goes a long way. In the cruise ship scenario, sharing your condolences to families who have lost loved ones and sympathy to anyone involved is highly recommended.

4)      Be concise – make sure you are being consistent with messaging. Nothing looks more suspicious than an organisation constantly changing their story

5)      Nominate a spokesperson – for the sake of consistency this should be the same person, preferably a senior member of staff with experience or training when it comes to speaking to the press

Finally, and most importantly, be prepared! Don’t wait until a crisis hits to discuss your crisis communications plan; that simply will not work. If you don’t have an effective plan in place you risk damaging you brands reputation which can have a domino effect on the business itself.

Chances are you will never need to implement the crisis communications plan, but it never hurts to be prepared.

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