Why crisis comms should never mean 'no comment'

Almost every day we hear about organisations that are dealing with some sort of crisis. When faced with bad news communications teams are often called upon so they can help to minimise any reputational damage.

How a company manages ‘bad news’ can be fundamental to its future success. Some of the elements of ‘crisis communications’ are straightforward but in this digital era there are certainly many aspects to consider.

Firstly, when a company knows that a bad story is likely to hit, they can prepare for it and it’s at this early stage they should engage their communications professionals so that an action plan can be created. When you’re in ‘the crisis’ it’s important to start communicating straight away. Good internal communications is crucial. Your staff need to know what has happened and what they can say. They will also need regular updates – otherwise they may start communicating via social media channels! You may well have other stakeholders that need to be informed: honesty and transparency is the key here otherwise it will probably come back to bite you – twice as hard.

But what should you say to the journalists when they pick up on the story? I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked to prepare ‘holding statements’ over the years and whilst they have a place and help management teams feel a little more secure, you still need to listen to what the journalist is asking for. Otherwise the ‘holding statement’ might be responding to the wrong questions.

Remember to monitor social media channels as well otherwise there might be online discussions taking place, which you have no knowledge or control over. If inaccurate comments are being posted then you should act quickly and set the record straight. Some people will never agree with your response but the majority will listen.

In every crisis situation there is an opportunity to respond and this will definitely be respected more than a ‘no comment’ - which should never be considered. The bottom line is that organisations should work with their communications teams as soon as they suspect a bad news story may hit – that way you can all work together to respond in a dignified and prepared manner.