TOP 3 COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES TO IMPLEMENT DURING YOUR ORGANIZATION'S PUBLIC CRISIS
As a broadcast news journalist I learned a lot about crisis communications, because I lived it, breathed it and worked in it for more than 10 years as a TV News reporter and anchor. During this time I also was able to observe how challenging leaders of organizations make it for the media to provide an accurate news story simply because they chose to dodge the media for all kinds of reasons.
Mostly, because they just didn’t know, what they didn’t know and they were taking communications advice from folks who didn’t have a clue about the inner workings of a newsroom, television station or anything.
At the moment a crisis happened, many leaders seemed to believe there was now an open conspiracy against them, their cause, their business, ministry or church. Because no one close to them could intelligently explain when and how to speak to the media in order to present the right image and even an accurate image, they tended to present themselves as ignorant or just downright foolish because of their misguided mentoring, even from those who were selected to legally represent them.
The truth of the matter for most reporters, no matter what size the market is, they are just trying to do their job, get that story done as accurate as possible and go home from work just like everyone else. Yes, it’s a demanding job and yes it may be covered or connected to the “big boys” but again, the fact is, news folk are just trying to finish a task, just like you are, in the midst of your work day. With this in mind and with the onslaught of media exposure that churches around the world are receiving, some due in part to the moral failures of their leaders, next I'll post my top 3 tips to keep in mind anytime your organization finds itself within the middle of a crisis. 1. CHOOSE TO COMMUNICATE - Now is NOT the time to say “No Comment”! As a matter of fact, “no comment” is actually the worse comment you could release to media and even supporters. Think of if this way: If you don’t tell your TRUTH about the crisis, you are essentially yielding your position so that anyone, who does or doesn’t know your organization’s stance can give their slant. There is nothing wrong with calling a press conference or even choosing to speak with local and national media when they call. Realize, if they are calling, 9 times out of 10, this means they will report the story and they will report it with the most accurate information they have. If your organization chooses to say NO COMMENT, what it looks like you’re really saying is: none of your business, we are in the wrong, and anything else, those watching will discern is the reason you’re choosing not to answer even simple questions. -
2. CHOOSE TO COMMUNICATE QUICKLY: One of the biggest mistakes I see organizations particularly faith-based organizations fail at during a crisis, is not commenting quickly or even first. For some reason, they seem to be reactive rather than proactive and rather than set the standard and allow their truth to be released FIRST and on their terms, they tend to cause people to almost force their hand or should I say force their mouth. As fast as information is disseminated digitally via the world wide web, it’s a wonder more faith-based leaders haven’t adopted the “communicate first” model. Think of it this way: He who communicates first, set the standard and directs the conversation.
3. CHOOSE TO COMMUNICATE REGULARLY: In the midst of a disaster aka crisis, things change and they change frequently; sometimes hour-by-hour and sometimes day-by-day. With this in mind, it’s logical to provide a morning update and even an evening update to your supporters or to the media, so again, they won’t have to “guess” or create the story based off of hear-say and half-information or worse yet, lies. There is nothing wrong with alerting your team, congregation or media that every day for the next 7 days you will have a standard update to keep them abreast of what’s happening. This way, you avoid being caught off guard and rushing to come up with an answer. Instead, because you are monitoring the situation and receiving updates all the time, you now can take the time to think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it daily, as not to fuel the flame but to essentially control the flame and create peace in the midst of what could be chaos. As a leader, your congregation and many times your community are looking to you for direction during a crisis probably more so than when things are peaceful.