It’s difficult for many to understand that the way that you communicate during a crisis is just as, if not more, important than what you’re actually saying. When you speak like a genuine person, then your audience will typically be receptive to your messaging, whereas if your communication sounds shady, even a full admission of fault will be viewed with suspicion.
In a recent blog post, crisis and reputation management pro Chris Syme discussed three messaging styles that should be avoided at all costs in a crisis, including one that epitomizes the cringe-inducing term, “spin doctor:”
The PR Machine. This persona speaks corporate-speak, talks of the events in third person language, and can make any negative, no matter how horrifying, into a positive. Even though every storm cloud has a silver lining, sometimes we just need to acknowledge it is raining and leave it at that. Personable, straight forward language in the first person is the best way to communicate. Remind your audience that you are committed to resolution and to taking care of any people affected by the event. If you put people—both internal and external—above the organization in your messaging, you will lay the groundwork to engage more advocates in your crisis.
It all comes down to this – you have to be honest. Not just honest as in, “I didn’t exactly lie because I left some words out and twisted a few words around a bit.” Rather, honest as in, “I made it as clear as humanly possible exactly what happened, even if it means admitting responsibility for some mistakes.”
In today’s business climate, both the public and the media are keen to spot someone looking like they’ve got something to hide, you absolutely cannot play spin doctor with your crisis messaging. Get out there, tell it like it is, and explain exactly what you’re going to do to set things right. Is it painful initially? You bet. Will it help save, and even possibly bolster, your reputation as a caring, responsible organization in the long run? Absolutely.