The Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Communication – With Jim Satterfield

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A communication plan is absolutely critical in a crisis environment. During a crisis or disaster, the decisions you make, the actions you take and the words you say will determine if the situation stabilizes or escalates. Leaders are under significant pressure and must make quick decisions and communicate to key constituents based upon continually changing information. Having a clear communications plan before a crisis strikes is imperative because it’s easier to edit a message or strategy than it is to create – especially in high-stress situations.

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Firestorm co-founder and CEO, Jim Satterfield, sat down with Church Mutual Insurance Company to discuss all things crisis, including crisis communication.

The Do’s of Crisis Communication

When a crisis occurs in an organization, senior leadership will be the focus of the message that is dispersed to key constituents.

Two key steps to take when communicating during a crisis or disaster:

  1. Slow your voice and lower your volume – By doing so, a sense of confidence is instilled. Set the right tone from the onset of the crisis.
  2. Be direct – State specifically what needs to be accomplished and provide instruction to constituents.

When a crisis occurs: Stay calm and be very clear and direct. Stick to themes, home bases and message maps:

  • We will not be defined by this event
  • We will invent the future
  • We will embrace the victims

During disaster, rumors begin to circulate and false information spreads. Do not act upon inaccurate facts, subsequently creating a secondary crisis. Instead, ask yourself ‘why’ five times before every communication. “Why now? “Why contact the media?” If you can answer the question ‘why’ five times, proceed with communication. Understand, however, that not all crisis situations will require communication with external audience members, particularly the media.

The Don’ts
In the event of a crisis, a few recommendations include:

  • Don’t talk through the media or communicate through a third party.
  • Don’t fall victim to the numbers game; don’t give phone numbers, dates or times.
  • Don’t put anything in writing. Meet face-to-face or via telephone if possible. Note this recommendation is not applicable to life-safety situations.
  • Don’t explain. When you are explaining, you are losing.

View the full list of actions to avoid by downloading the infographic summarizing Jim’s key points.

Many times, Firestorm works with organizations that have crisis plans, however, they are outdated and not actionable. Our dedicated team works with clients to ensure their crisis plans follow best practices.

Our Professional Service Solutions are multi-tiered and serve all industries and clients, from small to enterprise-level covering: Enterprise Risk Management, Crisis Management, Business Continuity and Incident Management.

Does your crisis plan need updated? We’re here to help, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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