Category Archives: crisis communication

Crisis Management Quotables…on Why You Don’t Cover-Up

Sweeping ugly truths under the rug will come back to haunt you down the road

Last week we talked about the ability of battlefield generals to do crisis management, but this week Quill and Pen Crisis Management Quotables - smallwe’re looking at another type of leader. Politicians might not be making decisions under direct fire, but they’re certainly coping with immense pressure and stress from every angle while making important decisions that they can, and these days will, be held accountable for. Tom Petri (R-Wi.) has spent more than 40 years in high-level politics, which we believe qualifies him to deliver this week’s Crisis Management Quotable:

“It isn’t the original scandal that gets people in the most trouble – it’s the attempted cover-up.” — Tom Petri

Whether we’re talking Watergate or a kid lying about doing their homework, the result of an attempted cover-up is the same in the end – far more more trouble, more stress, and often more financial loss, than would have been encountered by simply coming clean.

Is it difficult? No doubt. Will it save you a lot of time, trouble, and ruined reputation to ‘fess up? Absolutely.

Erik Bernstein
Social Media Manager

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Crisis Management Quotables…on Making Communication Work

Ensuring communication is effective is core to crisis management success

It turns out composer John Powell, perhaps best know for scoring movies like How to Train Your Dragon, Happy Feet and Kung-Fu Panda, knows a thing or two about verbal communication as well, making him the subject of today’s Crisis Management Quotable:

“Communication works for those who work at it.” — John Powell

Communication, GOOD communication, is an acquired skill, just like swinging a bat or kicking a ball. Sure, you can get the ball moving without any practice, but to control where it goes, who it reaches and with how much power it’s delivered with takes serious practice.

Quill and Pen Crisis Management Quotables - small

To continue with the sports analogy, do baseball players step up to the plate for an important game without putting in many, many hours of practice first? Of course not!

Why, then, do people think it’s safe to step in front of a camera or microphone when they haven’t even rehearsed in front of a mirror?

Communicating well is one of the most valuable skills you can learn, not only for crisis management, but also for life in general. Put in the work, and when it comes time to talk you’ll reap the rewards. That’s what it’s all about.

The BCM Blogging Team


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UK Embassy’s Twitter Gaffe

Proof of the need to constantly keep your image, your mission, and your audience in mind when posting to social media

It’s not entirely surprising to see brands getting too edgy or controversial as they compete to grab attention on social media, but one would hope for the folks running accounts belonging to government offices to be a bit more careful in what they share.

Well, hoping is not a crisis management strategy, as the British Embassy here in the U.S. discovered after sending this tweet Sunday:

As could be expected, this riled up a number of people.  It might have been funnier if not for the ongoing threat of terrorism.  The embassy quickly posted an apology, as well as sharing a post celebrating the two nations’ friendship by Britain’s deputy ambassador:

Clearly the post was meant to be in good fun, but it wasn’t hard to see that it would strike a nerve with more than a few people. Although this is not a major incident, it did no service to the mission of the @UKinUSA Twitter feed, and we’d guess the embassy is adjusting protocol as needed to help prevent future issues along these lines.

The BCM Blogging Team

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Crisis Management Musts: Alternatives to Apologies

Showing compassion without apologizing

Apologies are powerful crisis management tools, but more and more often we’re seeing reputation-Crisis Management Musts Alternatives to Apologiesthreatening situations that do not call for the ones taking flak to actually say “I’m sorry”. The most common situations are when organizations or individuals stand falsely accused, but other factors such as legal and liability considerations can come into play as well.

At the same time, you always want to express compassion in your crisis communications, whether it’s for those directly affected or the impact on your stakeholders, so what can you safely say?

Try these on for size:

  1. We regret
    “We deeply regret the concern this has caused…”
  2. We understand
    “As fellow _______, we understand the powerful emotions…”
  3. We feel
    “We feel for those affected…”

You may not always be able to apologize, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show you care. Find ways to express compassion and watch your audience become far more receptive to any crisis messaging you deliver.

The BCM Blogging Team

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Crisis Management Musts: Employee Communication

Don’t keep your employees in the dark

When it’s time to go into full-on crisis management mode, many organizations are focused purely on A) cleaning up the situation, and B) communicating with outside stakeholders, whether that means customers, investors or the media.

Here’s the problem with that – your employees, who are bound to be just as confused and concerned as anyone else, are the ones handling the crisis, and by leaving them in the dark you’re leaving room for rumor and innuendo, decreasing productivity, and increasing the chance that someone will grant a damaging interview or drop a disparaging quote to a story-hungry reporter.

Training and preparation are key to being ready to communicate internally in crisis, and this helpful list from the blog should help you understand what the focus should be on:

Assume any electronic message will become public. Ten or 15 years ago, companies could reasonably expect that companywide memos would be kept confidential. Those days are gone, Davis said. Millennials in particular have grown up expecting to share what they know with wide networks of people. Some even consider it their duty to make information free.

Use high- and low-tech means to communicate. Social media tools like Twitter or internal corporate social networks can help get messages out to the workforce fast, and email and text messages to mobile phones can do the same. But Davis warns that many companies, especially those in industries such as retail and hospitality, have to think about more traditional means like printed documents and face-to-face meetings. “Few organizations have 100 percent of employees with instant access to email,” Davis said. Face-to-face meetings also inspire more candid conversations and build trust.

Lean on leaders. Davis said it is a mistake to rely solely on CEOs to be the messengers in troubled times. When other senior leaders can articulate the same points, it shows the company is unified and pulling in the same direction, she said. At large organizations, the top 100 or so executives should be expected to step up and lead in employee communications. “Especially in times of crisis, you don’t want only CEOs to communicate,” she said.

Move quickly. A key to managing a crisis is to tell your side as it unfolds, rather than letting others tell the story for you. Employees who don’t get an official explanation may take their questions and guesses to public forums like Facebook, fueling an unwanted fire of speculation. It may be that, early on, all you can say is that you’re aware of the problem and working on it. But providing at least a preliminary statement is better than staying silent. “That’s an external communications principle,” Davis said, “but it’s also an internal communications strategy.”

Have a plan in place. Deciding what to say to employees amid a crisis is hard enough. You don’t want to add the headache of assembling a communications team and figuring out how to get messages delivered to all workers, Davis said. One way to prepare for predicaments is to communicate regularly with the workforce through a company portal, for example. Organizations that do this are less likely to have to scramble to set up communications channels. When you don’t have a plan, Davis said, “that’s when you really get into trouble.”

Don’t forget to communicate internally when you hit a rough spot. Every single employee can be an asset to crisis management, IF you put them in a position to do so.

The BCM Blogging Team


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