How to Deal With a Crisis? 5 Expert Crisis Communications Tips


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By Gerard Braud

Crisis communications is vital when bad weather strikes. The March 2018 wave of winter storms is demanding expert crisis communications from schools, universities, electric companies, government agencies, airlines, and a slew of other types of businesses.

People are often surprised when they ask, “How to deal with a crisis?” when I respond, “Don’t let the crisis happen.”

The secret: Manage expectations

Winter weather, much like a hurricane, has two crises in one. The crisis of the natural disaster cannot be prevented. But the crisis of public outrage can be mitigated if you manage expectations of your audience before the crisis begins.

Here are 5 steps you can follow:

1. Scare the pants off of people.

Don’t beat around the bush. Let people clearly know the pain, problem, and predicament they may face. If you are an electric company, warn customers of the harsh conditions they may face because the power may go out. Use strong, direct crisis messages, such as, “You may be without power for hours, days, or even more than a week.” Then give a specific list of steps they should take, such as evacuating, having backup generators, having ample food and water, or having ample gas or wood for heating.

2. Empathize before the storm hits.Latimer

Open your warning statement with an empathetic preamble, such as, “We know that our customers expect {Insert Your Service Here}. We want the same thing for you. However, we could all soon be facing the effects of {Insert Name of Effects}. We are prepared to respond as quickly as we can, but you may face some serious hardships because of events beyond our control.”

3. Blanket all communications channels.

Do media interviews with newspapers, radio, and television. Make your warnings strong. Consider purchasing commercials or ads to supplement your news coverage. Blanket your website by putting the warnings on the homepage. Blanket your social media with shareable images and videos. Email all employees so they become your message ambassadors. Email all customers, if you have their email addresses. Let public officials know the potential impact, to keep them from grandstanding their outrage for the media and voters to see.

4. Don’t feel compelled to respond to every social media post.

Frustrated customers quickly vent frustrations on social media. When possible, take your response offline with a direct message or a phone call. Reject the misguided notion that responding to every message on social media implies transparency. The truth is, replying on social media will boost the negative comments to the top of everyone’s newsfeed. Then trolls and haters add more hate, causing you to reply, causing the post to go to the top of the newsfeed again, which invites more hate. In a crisis, you can get sucked into a vortex of negative comments, which you ultimately can’t manage. However, if you’ve previously managed expectations with clear warnings (Step 1), empathized with the potential suffering (Step 2), and blanketed all communications channels (Step 3), the negatives on social media should be minimized.

5. Blanket communication channels with updates.

If your storm recovery is going better than planned, announce it and create hope. If your storm recovery is hitting glitches, announce it and manage expectations while adding an extra layer of empathy.

In conclusion, if you see angry elected officials, citizens, or customers lashing out, there is a strong likelihood that the targeted organization allowed the crisis to become a bigger crisis, because they failed to manage expectations.

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