Communication During a Crisis

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    fireAn accident happens in one of your plants. Your firm’s product is found faulty. A disgruntled employee brings a lawsuit against your firm. Suddenly, all eyes are on you, from the press to the public to your organization’s people. As a leader, how do you think clearly and communicate professionally and correctly under the gun? Here are some tips to help you plan ahead, execute on your plan, and keep your cool while doing it.

    Plan ahead:

    • Establish a crisis team responsible for decision making and communication. Be sure to include all key functions including exec management, council, HR, etc.
    • Develop a crisis communication plan well before needed. Determine what emergencies could occur and put protocols in place.
    • Have contact information for all stakeholders including suppliers, customers, media, and employees so you can get to it quickly. Include contact information for crisis team members. Get it all in one place easily accessed.
    • Have generic messages ready to go, or “holding messages” you can use as information unfolds. Remember online messaging will be important as well.
    • Have spokespeople identified and well prepared to respond in a timely and appropriate manner. Require statements come only from designated people. Have backup spokespersons ready as well.

    If you are speaking:

    • Take a moment to calm yourself; breathe, relax your body and your voice. Relax your face and your shoulders. Take a brief walk or move around your office to loosen up and work off excess adrenaline.
    • Take a few minutes to draft a statement or outline of what you plan to say. Take time to run it by a second party; this also acts as your rehearsal. You might want to record your words as another form of capture and rehearsal.
    • Take your time when speaking. Don’t let adrenaline cause you to speak too quickly. Pause periodically to regain calm. Make calm eye contact with the audience. Manage your face so it looks neutral rather than grim.

    How prepared are you to handle a sudden crisis? Start today to put protocol and skills in place.