Today’s crisis communications tip is to Mind the Gap. There is a gap of time between the flashpoint of your crisis and the time in which your first crisis news release statement is released to the world. You need to communicate the truth. If you fail to do so, you create a Truth Gap.
If you’ve been to the London subway, you’ve seen signs that say, “Mind the Gap.” There is a gap between the subway station platform and the subway train door. If you don’t “mind the gap” you will step into a gap that will injure or kill you. In crisis communications, if you don’t mind the gap, you will injure or kill your revenue, reputation, and brand.
My challenge to you is to close the gap in your crisis communications process in order to release a statement to the media, your employees, and your other key stakeholders much faster than ever before.
Social media has made the gap in crisis communications worse because Twitter and Facebook Live are telling the story in the first minute, while most companies take three or more hours before they release a statement to the media, their employees, and other key stakeholders.
Close the Gap
The three best ways to close the gap include:
- Write a crisis communications plan that dictates speed.
- Use the SituationHub.com app to write news releases in 3-5 minutes or have a library of pre-written news release statements as Microsoft Word documents.
- Hold regular crisis communications drills to test your plan, your process, and your people.
Regarding #1, most crisis communications plans only outline a list of tasks to be done. Very few light a fire under anyone’s butt. Your plan needs to light that fire. Speed is king.
One secret to speed is for your plan to outline how you can release small bits of information a little at a time.
You don’t need to know everything before you say anything.
As long as you are accurate and you do not speculate, a little information is better than no information and it is better than waiting until you know everything. Simply close the statement by saying,
Members of our team are gathering additional information and we will share that information with you as soon as possible.
Regarding #2, most crisis communications plans have holding statements. I like a feature in the SituationHub app called “The First Critical Statement.” Depending upon the situation, the app will ask you 10 to 20 questions, then based on your answers it will automatically write your holding statement. It covers the basics that all reporters want to know, such as who, what, when, and where. To the delight of your lawyers, why and how are addressed in sentences that deflect speculation. And to add a cherry on top of your news release statement, lawyers and executives can pre-approve the language the day you subscribe to the app, rather than on the day of your crisis when seconds count.
At the time we are writing this, SituationHub offers 50 to 75 detailed news releases for a variety of companies, including electric companies, chemical companies, credit unions and banks, schools and universities, and general businesses. We’re told that the app will be adding government and healthcare options next.
Regarding #3, a crisis communications drill lets you make mistakes in private, so you don’t make mistakes in public. This allows you to test your plan to make sure it works as designed. You also get to test the ability of your people to follow directions and evaluate who goes “off script.” You get to test your ability to mind the gap and close the gap with pre-written news release statements. You also get to test your spokespeople in mock news conferences.
Oh, and regarding spokespeople and news conferences, the SituationHub crisis communications software also generates a written script for spokespeople to read at a news conference. The script pre-answers questions before they are asked by reporters, thereby reducing the number of questions asked during the news conference.
In conclusion, the gap is closing on you because of social media. Take steps today to mind the gap by putting tools in place on a clear sunny day, in order to be your best on your darkest day.