Business development · 24 April 2020

Why good crisis communications are vital when times are tough

crisis-comms

Founder of Cherish PR, Rebecca Oately says good crisiscommunicationsare crucial during COVID-19 when all businesses are bound to face at least one tough situation…

I was talking to a friend earlier this month and she was in tears. In the space of 48 hours, her multi-million pound business had shrunk by 60%. In less than three months, she would have shut her doors on a business that she had taken her life to build.

During our conversation, I found myself telling her what I strongly believe; that businesses are run by people and people are good.

If you communicate well, be open, honest and truthful, theyll understand and help. For my friend and everyone in small business, success in 2020 will equate to staying afloat.

that’s the common goal that everyone shares.

it’s not just my friend who is facing those difficult conversations. Many organisations are figuring out how they can keep their business and who they need to speak to to achieve stability.

it’s never been more important to explain honestly that you are considering all scenarios to make the right decisions, that things are tough but that you are working hard. it’s communication that’s essential to keep your business going when a crisis looms.

In the past few decades, I have seen numerous clients through crises of all kinds, and there are a few principles that help in those tricky conversations.

The communications function is as much about listening as telling

don’t ever underestimate the strategic importance of listening. Begin by asking questions of your audiences and listen to your critics as necessary. Try to understand their position, challenges and pressure. Listen and look for key threads and make sure you are communicating how you can address and support them.

Resist the knee jerk reaction

The first response in any crisis is usually the wrong one. The knee jerk reaction of defending your position, jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst (or best) doesnt lead to good decisions or messaging. The reality is that whilst timing is of the essence, things change. Stories can settle and disappear or evolve and pick up momentum.

Be careful that you are not fanning but pouring water on the flames by choosing the right moment to respond. Also, be sure to monitor the information that’s coming through and figure out how accurate it really is. Weve seen that often, misinformation travels faster than accurate information.

Keep communications channels open

it’s so important not to bury your head in the sand. Communication operates best when it is two way. Keeping communications channels open creates a more positive environment for you to put your point across. This includes social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

If you are informing your customers about a situation, make sure that you can answer their questions; that you are listening to their concerns and taking them on-board.

Recognise the context

When dealing specifically with criticism, be careful to understand the context in which that criticism is given. It may be that it is being fuelled by competitors under threat or perhaps in the case of the media, the outlet has a particular position driven readers? social, cultural or political beliefs.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is an experienced Managing Director and Senior Communications Consultant with over 30 years in PR and marketing across consumer, business and corporate markets. Rebecca represented many of the leading early-stage dot com businesses before founding Cherish in 2003 to provide a trusted PR consultancy for the new wave of tech and digital businesses and brands.

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