“Bad news and more bad news.”

2020 has been a difficult year for many of us from a health and economic point of view. Sometimes it’s been really difficult to remember what the good times were like. 

But it’s important to retain a sense of  balance and a grip on reality, as it affects both you as an individual and as a representative of your company. It’s maybe worth remembering that, from a corporate point of view, being noticed for doing the RIGHT things when the rest of the world is in turbulence will give your brand reputation a head start when things start to improve.

The Three Pillars of Crisis Comms Wisdom

During a crisis,  honesty, transparency and consistency should run through your external and internal communications from the word ‘Go’. The tone may be different on social media but the content of the messages you relay, say, on twitter, your website or in a radio or tv interview should be the same.

Whoever is the public face or voice of your company should have a measured, authoritative tone to reassure your customers, staff and stakeholders that you are across the situation even if you don’t know all the answers as the crisis develops, sometimes at a pace which it’s difficult to keep up with.

Even if the landscape changes and new facts emerge, as they certainly will, you need to be adept at reflecting those changes with speed and not stick to an obsolete line and pretend nothing has changed, like some politicians we all know!

Who is your Voice?

If your crisis management plans haven’t specified an individual who will be the voice of your organization may I respectfully suggest that you get your act together and decide now!

If it’s the CEO, are his or her communication skills up to the task? If you suspect that they’re not, who’s going to persuade them to either get crisis communication skills training or suggest someone else to fulfill that role?

On your marks…

Speed of response is critical in any crisis, and remember, you don’t have the time to wait until you have ALL the facts available before you respond – just make sure you stick to what facts you do know and don’t speculate. You need to assert your authority and refrain from commenting on stuff you’re unsure about.

Being fleet-footed in a crisis has never been more important than it is today, due to the sheer number media outlets and the ability of some people on social media to spread misinformation faster than ever before.

KFC vs Ryanair

Remember the KFC chicken fiasco ( or “The FCK Saga” as I refer to it) of 2018 when the UK and Irish operation ran out of chicken? It had the potential to make them look really incompetent and useless but their marketing and PR team did a wonderful job of re-establishing their brand reputation very quickly and they recovered with kudos to spare, as I wrote in a blog at the time [KFC -Staying Bullish While Running Our of Chicken].

Compare that to the notorious incident in the same year with the negative publicity surrounding Ryanair’s handling of a passenger video posted online that featured a racist rant by a man to an elderly black female on one of their flights.

Viewer outrage at the incident was amplified by the crew’s response at the time, warning the man to ‘calm down’ and moving the victim rather than the perpetrator to a different seat.

The story was covered by international mainstream media with calls to boycott the airline. British politicians were lining up to criticize the airline for their limp response and lacklustre apology.

Ryanair issued a more detailed statement following a week of damning press coverage, blaming the media for “inaccurate” reports (thus reverting to the classic defensive reaction -“When in a corner, blame the media”) but lacking entirely in human warmth. An apology to the passenger was found only at the end of the statement.

It later emerged that the cabin crew were unaware of the racist element of the tirade but throughout the lengthy episode the company’s focus seemed to be fixed on the video rather than the incident itself and the way in which the victim was abused.

Tone of Voice

On twitter, your reaction should clear, concise and personal in tone as that’s how your audience will consume the information, as individuals.

While a written statement will be more formal, the key message is still that you are devoting all your resources to getting to the root of the problem and that solving it is paramount – evidence of action should be included if possible.

When you have more details you should release them in real time and you’ll build trust as you tailor your message to each audience member whether it’s social media, tv, radio or your website.

Making Hay

The word ‘crisis’ is a Latinized version of the Greek word ‘krisis’ which means ‘the turning point in a disease’.

By ensuring your crisis communications plans are up to scratch you’ll be helping to create stability for your brand and reducing the risk of your organization getting caught out in a crisis.

If your company is lucky enough to be doing well during the wider crisis you should consider whether your crisis management plans have been tested recently and seek out areas of improvement while you can.

Trying making hay while the sun shines – it’s worth it, believe me.