Five Crisis Communications #Fails for 2020

Avoid these #fail behaviors if you want to stay out of #crisiscomms trouble

It’s the year 2020 and yet, sadly, some organizations and individuals seem to still be living 10 to 20 years in the past in terms of crisis communications best practices. Here are five ways in which they #fail as a result, providing you with the ability to learn from their mistakes.

  1. Not providing for 24/7 response to breaking events. Regardless of your location, we live in a global information environment. Crisis management teams need the means to detect and rapidly respond to breaking situations around-the-clock, because in the absence of communication, rumor and innuendo fill the gap.   Personnel in different time zones, if they can’t reach the “right person” at the organizational HQ, will “wing it” – with sometimes disastrous results.communications bubble - making crisis communications part of the conversation
  2. Providing data that doesn’t hold up to fact-checking. The practice of fact-checking has increased dramatically in recent years. Professional organizations and talented amateurs are very publicly picking apart statements which contain falsehoods. You will get castigated whether false information was provided intentionally or simply because you didn’t adequately fact-check your own data first.
  3. Using only one medium to reach your stakeholders. With so many sources of information available to and used by many of your stakeholders, don’t make the mistake of assuming that any single medium – e.g., a press release, an employee meeting, a dedicated web page – will reach them. Determine now, before you need it, which forms of communication reach your stakeholders best when the message is urgent.
  4. Flying below the radar. With almost half the world’s population in possession of a smart phone and the practice of leaking information having turned into almost a recreational sport, there is no flying below the radar anymore. However, you still retain the ability to “get ahead of the news” if no leaks have yet occurred  and then you can introduce the hot topic yourself, with appropriate key messages.
  5. Trying to “contain” a crisis situation. Along the same lines as “flying below the radar,” it used to be possible to contain a crisis situation locally – i.e., what happened in most cities stayed in those cities unless the event was truly national news and shared on the major networks.  There is no container impervious to the news sharing inherent in the Internet and all of our marvelous communications devices.  We see examples in the news every day of people who didn’t expect to end up in news coverage (or a viral meme!) but who were captured on someone’s cellphone camera.

Our readers might have other examples, which we encourage you to share in the comments to this blog post.

Jonathan Bernstein