Practicing Restraint of Pen, Tongue and Send Button

Erik Bernstein crisis management

Practicing Restraint of Pen, Tongue and Send Button

A critical crisis prevention best practice

That darn Send button.

It’s much too easy to click the Send button on any communications device and just as easy for whatever you send to be (a) misunderstood; (b) shared with others along with the recipient’s personal opinions; and, (c) posted widely online in places you never expected.  We all know that but, factually, if more people practiced restraint of pen, tongue and Send button, we’d have less business.  In fact, communications situations in which people were careless, foolish, vindictive, or simply under the influence continue to be a primary cause of breaking crisis cases to which we respond on an almost-daily basis.

It’s an old adage to “practice restraint of pen and tongue” in order to avoid negative responses that could escalate to crisis level.  The Internet has made it possible to “share” any crisis-level errors you or someone at your organization makes in any form.  What you say can be recorded, even if illegal in your location.  What you write can be captured.  Both can be shared widely by someone who was not happy with the messaging.  If someone is unhappy and at all knowledgeable about how to use social media and review sites, for example, the damage can be extensive.

Some examples:

  • A CEO fires off any angry letter to a reporter accusing them of poor journalistic practices (a definite “Worst Practice in Crisis Management”).
  • A mid-level manager at a global manufacturing company accidentally sends an email with highly confidential information about one customer – to another customer.
  • A cranky front office person at a medical clinic elicits a very reputation-damaging online response from a parent.
  • Teens who are showing off to each other in what they think is a private online forum make some very politically incorrect statements that get captured and shared by others.

Here are some examples of such errors as reported by embarrassed Twitter users:

Don’t be the next viral wrong-way example!

Jonathan Bernstein