Monday, June 24, 2019

5 Obstacles To Handling A Communication Crisis

1. You Don't Know What the Term "Crisis" Means: The fact that there is a crisis does not mean that you are guilty of doing anything wrong. It simply means that your customers and/or other key stakeholders perceive that you're doing something wrong. They are concerned enough about how you're handling your mission that they do any of the following things: question your integrity, challenge your leadership ability, complain to others, sue you, change suppliers, and/or recruit others to patronize other businesses.

2. You Wait Too Long: Most organizations manage communication crises badly because they don't believe, or don't want to believe, that there is a problem. So they wait until it's too late to admit that something is wrong, and/or they underestimate the magnitude of the crisis. Compounding the matter, they take the crisis personally and therefore don't trust expert communication specialists to handle it, preferring instead their own counsel or the counsel of their trusted but poorly qualified advisers.

3. Your Assessment Tools Are Faulty: Fearful and anxious about failing, many organizations lack the combined qualitative and quantitative skill sets needed to assess customer and other stakeholder perceptions in a robust and ongoing way. If you don't know what's going on when things are "normal," and/or you don't measure the trends in customer perception over time, you won't be well-positioned to distinguish for a CEO the difference between a ten-minute rainstorm and a massive influx of rock-sized hail.

4. You Are Terrible at Memes: Memes are a shorthand visual comment offered to express an opinion of a complex situation. They are just one example of a language used by customers to communicate with other customers in ways that are outside your span of control. If you can't get into the ring and influence the memetic conversation, you are not going to get the customer's attention. This is of course only one example among many that are deeply stakeholder-dependent. Some of your customer segments may rely on detailed white papers to absorb and react to an issue; where are you on that? Either stay in close touch with how your customer communicates or watch as your influence gets elbowed to the side quickly in favor of other, more savvy information providers.

5. You Slow-Drip Transparent Information: In a moment of crisis, your employees should be wearing the equivalent of bodycams as they interact with the people affected. Instead of allowing other people to "leak" your story, your video, photos, live interviews, and nonstop facility tours provide a direct and embedded experience for anyone who is curious about what is going on. You supplement this information with a robust public-domain information download center so that anyone concerned can access materials for themselves, analyze them and share them at will. To supplement the unfiltered information, you explain the context within which your organization is acting, so that seemingly difficult-to-understand decisions make sense to the outside viewer.
By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. Public domain. Free photo via Pixabay.