We all like to have some certainty in our lives. It is why there is so much written about the challenge of change and the importance of change communication. These days there is so much uncertainty it is difficult to accept and be comfortable with it. It is also a huge challenge to communicators who want to have all the facts to be effective.
During a crisis we should be working towards ensuring honesty, authenticity and a transparency within the communication. When the situation is moving and changing this can be a huge problem. It is why communication has to sit at the heart of the crisis response and understand what has happened, the current situation and the possible future outcomes.
When things are moving so quickly it is easy to think the best course of action is to wait until there is a clear position to communicate. But regular and open communication is critical throughout the timespan of the crisis. Telling people what is clear, and being honest about the aspects that are unknown, will build trust. Some leaders fear this creates more uncertainty and may appear as though they haven’t got control of the situation. I would disagree. People understand that uncertainty exists and they will appreciate that things are developing and plans will develop accordingly. They will appreciate it if you speak to them in an open and honest way.
In my book Crisis Communication Strategies I wrote
Honesty is always the best policy and if you can’t provide the details explain that you can’t and why you can’t at this stage.
That for me is essential. Keep a flow of information that helps people understand the situation, what they need to do to help and how things are developing. In doing that you are demonstrating that there is a ‘grip’ on the situation even if it is continuing to develop, change and evolve. Keeping silent only allows people to fill in the gaps with their own version of events. To not explain that the situation is developing makes you appear to be oblivious to the impact of what is happening.
We are living through one of the longest running crises for some years. The principles of effective crisis communication remain even during this national emergency. It is important use communication to help people through the situation whether it is by understanding how they can save lives, sharing what is being done to understand and tackle the problem, and that these times will pass and their will be a future.
*If you need any help or support with crisis communication, reviews, debriefs and planning for the future get in touch.