Communications – what you should and shouldn’t do in a crisis

publication date: Jan 7, 2012

These crisis communication tips come from Danya Proud, director of media relations at McDonald's USA, via Samantha Hosenkamp writing for Ragan's PR Daily. Your crisis communication strategy (and you must have one) should contain these elements.

  • Don't inflate You don't have to send an email to your entire company when there's a crisis. Focus your efforts on key players and departments.
  • Don't slack off Social media moves like lightening. You can't procrastinate, Proud says. Get back to people right away, even if it's just a post or tweet to show you're aware of the problem and working on it.
  • Don't miss an opportunity Turn the crisis into a chance to set the record straight and educate the public.
  • Don't waste time on C.A.V.E. people The term comes from McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner and stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. No matter what you do, some people will never love you.
  • Do define the crisis Be very clear on what the crisis is, what it means to your organization, and who needs to be involved.
  • Do choose a believable spokesperson That may not be your CEO, Proud warns. Make sure the person you choose as the face of your crisis response is someone to whom your audience can relate.
  • Do avoid jargon Keep your language conversational, and define any tech speak or acronyms you absolutely have to use. Unfamiliar language creates suspicion.
  • Do know your audience Monitor social media and find other ways to listen to your stakeholders so you'll know what they need to hear when a crisis erupts. For instance, if your humanitarian aid goes wrong, is your audience most concerned about the safety of victims? Program continuity? Safety of field workers? Management of their donated funds? Know their priorities and respond accordingly.
  • Do acknowledge that you're not perfect If you've made a mistake, Proud advises you to own up to it. Even that simple act lets people know you're listening to them.

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