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Communicating in Times of Crisis
Author: Debbie May
Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Communication in times of crisis can be a challenge, however, there is an appropriate way to handle the situation and an inappropriate way. Here are some of the basic rules of thumb when experiencing a crisis with your business.

Everyone would like to believe that nothing bad will ever happen to them, and for business owners the thought of a potential crisis may not seem like a threat that they need to address. However, in today's age of technology it it not hard to imagine that you may find out about a problem through social media, especially with the growth of Twitter and Facebook. Due to this reality, it is imperative that businesses arm themselves with an appropriate means of communication for dealing with potential crises.

Whether it be disastrous weather, a health emergency or vendor delays that impact your product delivery times, it is important to master successful communication within your business. A communication plan is necessary fro reaching out to the public, and it is the way in which you will communicate with, and inform key groups while you are dealing with the crisis internally.

When devising a commmunications plan, it is important to keep a few questions in mind:

What kinds of crises can you expect? Even though unexpected things do happen, it is important to cover as amny bases as possible so that you are prepared and have a plan in place.

Who is in charge? Put together a crisis team and give each individual a responsibility that they are to handle in the evemt of a crisis. For example, assign someone with credibilty in the company to act as a spokesperson to customers. The last thing you want to do is waste time trying to figure out who will deal with the mess at hand, especially when early communication is key.

What is the strategy? A good strategy starts with dealing with the crisis directly. Get information out to the public early and continue to give updates often through your social media outlets or website. Never duck the issue! It is important to show your customers that you are trustworthy, honest and take responsibilty, even in the most difficult situati

What is your message? When a crisis hits, it goes without saying that themost important part of your plan is the message that you will communicate with the public. Before you devise the message, you must first consider the facts of the situation, and then determine whish of those facts are appropriate to share with the audience. Do not withdraw from sharing any pressing information for the sake of looking dishonest, but do reflect on any restraints. There are a few key messages you may consider when putting together your plan...
  • A concise explanation of the situation that has taken place
  • Recognize the feelings of those around you, even if they are angry or negative
  • Do not become defensive and/or use potentially offensive language
  • Express heartfelt concern for customers, employees, and any other groups that may have been affected
  • If necessary, provide an appropriate apology and a statement that the company takes responsibility for the situation
  • Provide a follow plan for what stakeholders can expect in the near and distant future
Although we all hope that no misfortunes befall our businessm it is best to be prepared in case of an emergency. Remember to act professionally and openly throughout the process, your customers and employees will thank you.

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