Every company, no matter the industry, deals with difficult problems and issues each day. Starbucks’ issue of racial profiling in one of their stores; Southwest’s emergency landing resulting in the death of a passenger; countless produce companies having issues with E. coli and Chili’s data breach, to name a few. No industry or organization is free from the risk of a crisis. So what should corporate leaders do when something goes wrong?
4 Steps to Effectively Communicate in a Crisis
One important caveat up front — sound communications cannot make up for poor decision-making on the part of leadership. However, when leaders do become aware of issues, they should follow these actions:
1. Gather the Facts
Understand the situation, its components, results and future implications as much as possible. Figure out what you know; what you don’t know; what you need to find out; and what are myths and rumors that abound.
2. Tell the Truth
There is no substitute for this. While you should work with your communications team on what information you will be sharing, whatever you share needs to be the unadulterated truth.
3. Plan Your Communications
With the exception of FCC and/or regulatory requirements, all communication should be executed from the “inside out.” Employees should be communicated to first and foremost, followed by outside audiences.
4. Build Communication Skill
No matter how successful the leader, there is one common truth — communication is a learned skill. When crisis situations arise, those leaders who have taken the time to build that skill beforehand are far more successful than those learning “on the fly.” To drive effective communications, leaders must:
- Have a platform that outlines their core messages and actions.
- Be visible, open, honest, trustworthy and candid.
- Be consistent.
- Communicate frequently.
- Understand that everything they say and do communicates.
- Answer questions employees have.
- Be engaged in developing and planning their communications.
- Engage their communications team as a business partner.
- Ask employees for their input and use it.
The Value of Being a leadercommunicator
These are the qualities of what I call a “leadercommunicator,” an individual who realizes that most problems in business today lie in the absence of real communication. They apply in a crisis and every day. When done well, these courageous leaders are able to mitigate crisis, create shared meaning and move people to action.
Which one step — when implemented effectively — will be most useful to help you become a leadercommunicator?
Click below to download the Take 5 Planning Template — and use it to map out your communication — whether it’s to one person, a group or an organization.