When creating crisis communications we see far too many failing to consider their audience in the writing. Whether it comes as a result of being overly insulated in your own company culture or simply being out of touch with the segment of the population that’s been impacted, not considering your target audience and how they believe communications should go is one of the most common mistakes made in crisis situations.
Fortunately it’s not hard to fix. All you need is the ability to put yourself in the audience’s shoes – what concerns do they want addressed, and what factors are driving the emotions they’re feeling about you and your brand? Sometimes it can help to get an outside perspective from a trusted adviser, or even to ask folks from the stakeholder group (if that’s an option), but regardless until you understand what the audience needs from you, you can’t start writing.
One of the best ways to practice this might be to take crisis communications you see coming from other organizations and try to re-write them to be more effective given what you know from news coverage, etc. of public reaction, and if you truly want to get better at communicating in ugly situations you’ll make this a regular part of your professional routine.
For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
[Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]