There are three simple rules to effective crisis communication, which, if followed, should yield the best result possible – within the constraints of the facts and circumstances. Though these rules may be simple, they will help to mitigate some of the damage in a time of a crisis.
Rule # 1: Always tell the truth. There have been numerous case studies demonstrating the power of truth. When companies own up to mistakes they have made and take action to prevent these mistakes from being made again in the future, they invariably come out on top. It can be hard to do so, but the organization is stronger as a result. However, telling the truth does not mean telling every last detail you know. Remember that short simple communications are better than long, too-revealing communications.
Rule #2: Appoint a single spokesperson to be the face and voice of the company with the media. This person should be someone who is well trained in public and media relations and specifically in crisis communications. Having a single person as the point of contact for the media will provide a consistent message to all channels. You and your company may have multiple communication teams working internally to address different needs, like employees and customers, but should have only one corporate spokesperson during a crisis.
Rule #3: Provide Formatted Information. The information that needs be addresses is who, when, what, where, why and how. Who was involved, where did it happen, what happened, where did it happen, why did it happen and how did it happen? If you tailor your communications to address these basic needs, you’ll help the media do their job quickly and efficiently.
Your crisis communication plan and training should include language that can be used to help neutralize the crisis by providing factual data without editorials, emotions, and other extraneous data. By following the three rules, your company will be able to appropriately handle the media in the time of a crisis.