In a crisis, your PR strategy comes into its own. The staples of good brand communication – honesty, clarity, self-awareness – are more important than ever.

You have read our guide to creating an intelligent crisis comms strategy. You have digested our tips on the type of messages and operational pivots that will help to keep your customers close when you can’t sell your product or service.

But of course knowing what to say in a crisis is one thing. Knowing how to say it is another thing entirely. And getting it wrong could cost you some serious brand reputation points. So here are some tips on how businesses can communicate with their customers in a crisis.

Less is more

Don’t fall into the trap of saying something because you thought it was bad to say nothing. Things change fast in a crisis and you don’t want to end up in a position where you are retracting previous statements or contradicting yourself down the line. Take the time to plan what you’re going to say. And when you do decide it’s time to reach out, take the time to get your message right.

Speak the truth

In the age of fake news, you have an ethical responsibility to be clear and honest. That responsibility is especially important during times of uncertainty. So with that in mind…

…it’s okay if you don’t know the answers

People – en masse – don’t tolerate change well. One of the things that sparks anxiety during a crisis is the lack of certainty. Don’t add to the uncertainty by speculating. If you receive a question and you don’t know the answer, be honest and follow it up later. The digital era may have made us accustomed to speedy communication. But sometimes immediacy is idiocy.

Stay true to yourself

Remember who you are and what you stand for. Be authentic. You don’t need to follow the crowd. You don’t need to bowl into the prevailing public debate with your two cents. You don’t need to repeat news updates that your audience can receive from myriad other sources – unless you can do so with expert authority. Know who you are, know what you stand for and stick to being yourself.

Get your tone right

Think of the way a newsreader adjusts their tone across the course of a typical thirty-minute news broadcast. It gradually lightens throughout the programme to reflect the decreasing gravity of what’s being said.

In the same way, if your message is serious your tone should reflect that. You can still speak in your brand style. But be mindful of the fact that you may require a different shade in terms of tone. Straight-laced tact and clarity is likely to be the order of the day.

Bring out your human side

In a crisis people connect with people. There’s something reassuring and reputable about coming out from behind your brand and showing your human side to your audience. Now is a great time to lift the curtain and reveal some team members – whether that’s a personal message from the top brass or an operational update from your head of customer service. Put a little public back into your public relations.

Let us help you?

During a crisis it’s easy for a business to fall into panic mode. If you would like more advice on how your brand can communicate in a crisis, please call us. We are experts in crisis comms and would be happy to offer you some tips that are specific to your business and industry.

 

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