The Center for Disease Control (CDC) deals with a very specific type of problem. So planning for a crisis situation in advance is easier than in some businesses, but putting that aside, most businesses provide a limited number of products or services, so setting up an advance plan for crisis communications is possible … and necessary. Here are some of the lessons the CDC has to share about effective communications while in a crisis.
Be the first to get the information out to the public. Don’t give someone else the chance to begin the narrative of your story or situation. The first reports are going to be the one that becomes the standard for all the information that follows.
Accuracy is Vital
As you are reporting quickly, you may not yet have all the facts, but you can let people what you know and what you don’t know. Tell them what is being done to get further details, and when you will report next, even if you don’t have more information yet. This is especially important in life and death type situations.
Keep the Trust
That means being honest, even when it isn’t comfortable. Making sure people can trust what you say and do becomes vital in the long run. If you get something wrong, then correct it as soon as you know. A business won’t stand a chance of recovering if people believe you’ve lied to them and continued to do so in the midst of a crisis.
Show How You Care
Say how sorry you are, but back it up with action too. Make certain that basic needs are provided if it’s a big crisis – provide meals, comfort, a safe place to be while they wait for further information. Give people back some semblance of control in their lives as quickly and as often as possible.
Finally, Respect Them
Treat them like family and dear friends who matter to you, not just now, but ongoing as well. That may mean getting off a podium and talking one-on-one with people, asking how they are doing, what they need, how you can help beyond what is already being done. Do they need a full-time liaison group set up where they are waiting? Do they need a way to contact loved ones easily? If it’s as simple as setting up a dedicated phone line for customers to call with problems and questions, then do that. Show that they matter, and you’ll get through the crisis and find that many of your customers now feel you are family.