Crisis Communication Truth #1
You must communicate quickly in a crisis.
Crisis Communication Truth #2
If you fail to communicate quickly in a crisis, the narrative will be controlled on social media.
Crisis Communication Truth #3
Failure to control your communications, the narrative, and the truth, will result in damage to both your reputation and revenue.
Boom: Enter the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica crisis and the absence of a statement from Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg.
When I went to bed Tuesday night, March 20th, comedian Stephen Colbert was showing tumbleweeds rolling past an image of Zuckerberg, as the comedian noted the absence of a statement from Zuckerberg. At that time the stock value had dropped by $39 billion dollars.
By morning, Wednesday, March 21st, as I watched HLN, their graphic showed Zuckerberg with question marks all around him as they asked, “Where is Mark Zuckerberg?” By this time, stock value had dropped by $50 billion dollars.
It was Wednesday afternoon before Zuckerberg releases a statement on Facebook, trying to explain what happened. This brings us to a bonus truth that we will call Crisis Communications Truth #4: When you attempt crisis communications via social media, the angry mobs, trolls, and haters will unleash on you in a way that is uncontrollable and accomplishes nothing, except allowing space for people to vent.
Ironically, I’m in the midst of preparing a presentation called, “Social Media is at the Crossroads.” It will be presented at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) conference in Montreal, Canada on June 4, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. This case study personifies so many challenges that companies face in a crisis.
Facebook and Zuckerberg did what most companies do; they made no statement because they are gathering more information.
WRONG. It is always wrong to remain silent, because the void is filled with speculation by the media, pundits, social media, and comedians.
The RIGHT way to handle this begins with a simple statement that says your company is aware of the crisis, that it is being investigated, and that you hope to issue a statement shortly with more information. That’s it.
- Acknowledge the crisis
- Empathize with those who have been harmed
- Apologize where possible
- Promise to deliver more information within a reasonable amount of time.
While the silence prevailed, the primary discussions were people asking, “Where is Mark Zuckerberg,” and “Are you getting off of Facebook.”
Behold: A crisis of communications that damages reputation and revenue.
Behold: A crisis made worse because of the lack of proper crisis communications.
Behold: A crisis that cannot be controlled by releasing a statement on social media
About the Author: Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC (Jared Bro) is an international expert, coach, trainer, author and professional speaker, who has worked with organizations on five continents. Known as the guy to call when it hits the fan, he is widely regarded as an expert in crisis communications and media issues. Gerard has been active in the field of communications since 1979. For 15 years, he worked in print, radio and television as a front line journalist, on the scene of every type of disaster imaginable. His affiliate reports have been seen around the world on NBC, CBS, CNN and the BBC. Since 1994 Gerard has specialized in helping organizations communicate more effectively through media training, crisis communications plans, and employee-manager training. Following the events of September 11th, he was commissioned to write the crisis communication plan for the Internal Revenue Service and its 800 offices across America. His plans are also used by the Library of Congress, the U.S. Army Missile Defense Command, numerous city, state and county governments, international corporations, national retailers, national and global non-profits, hospitals, and numerous schools and universities. Gerard has a gift for foreseeing and predicting crises before they happen. Fifteen years before Hurricane Katrina, he predicted the catastrophic destruction that would befall New Orleans through a series of award winning reports called, “When the Big One Hits.” For 2 years prior to the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, Gerard warned that the crisis communications plans at most universities were insufficient and would fail when they were needed most.