By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC
Crisis Communication Truth #1
You must communicate quickly in a crisis.
Crisis Communication Truth #2
If you fail to communicate quickly in a crisis, the narrative will be controlled on social media.
Crisis Communication Truth #3
Failure to control your communications, the narrative, and the truth, will result in damage to both your reputation and revenue.
Boom: Enter the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica crisis and the absence of a statement from Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg.
When I went to bed Tuesday night, March 20th, comedian Stephen Colbert was showing tumbleweeds rolling past an image of Zuckerberg, as the comedian noted the absence of a statement from Zuckerberg. At that time the stock value had dropped by $39 billion dollars.
By morning, Wednesday, March 21st, as I watched HLN, their graphic showed Zuckerberg with question marks all around him as they asked, “Where is Mark Zuckerberg?” By this time, stock value had dropped by $50 billion dollars.
It was Wednesday afternoon before Zuckerberg released a statement on Facebook, trying to explain what happened. This brings us to a bonus truth that we will call Crisis Communications Truth #4: When you attempt crisis communications via social media, the angry mobs, trolls, and haters will unleash on you in a way that is uncontrollable and accomplishes nothing, except allowing space for people to vent.
Ironically, I’m in the midst of preparing a presentation called, “Social Media is at the Crossroads.” It will be presented at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) conference in Montreal, Canada on June 4, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. This case study personifies so many challenges that companies face in a crisis.
Facebook and Zuckerberg did what most companies do; they made no statement because they are gathering more information.
WRONG. It is always wrong to remain silent, because the void is filled with speculation by the media, pundits, social media, and comedians.
The RIGHT way to handle this begins with a simple statement that says your company is aware of the crisis, that it is being investigated, and that you hope to issue a statement shortly with more information. That’s it.
- Acknowledge the crisis
- Empathize with those who have been harmed
- Apologize where possible
- Promise to deliver more information within a reasonable amount of time
While the silence prevailed, the primary discussions were people asking, “Where is Mark Zuckerberg?” and “Are you getting off of Facebook?”
Behold: A crisis of communications that damages reputation and revenue.
Behold: A crisis made worse because of the lack of proper crisis communications.
Behold: A crisis that cannot be controlled by releasing a statement on social media.