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Crisis communication - which microphone do you speak into?

Crisis communication - which microphone do you speak into?

Experts know: Every organizational crisis is also a communications crisis. Communication in times of crisis is full of challenges. This is primarily due to the highly dynamic nature of crisis situations and the constant lack of information. In this context, the success of crisis management depends to a considerable extent on the way in which companies communicate with their stakeholders. Crisis communication is an integral part of crisis management. It pursues the goal of protecting the company's reputation and avoiding or at least mitigating potential damage to its reputation. But how does it differ from conventional corporate communications? And what makes for good crisis communication?

The recipe for successful crisis communication

Crisis communication is one of the strategic tasks of a crisis manager – after all, the reputational risks for companies in a crisis are much higher than in normal operations. Good crisis communication should include the following elements:

  • Summary of the crisis situation: if the company is in crisis mode, relevant stakeholders must be informed immediately. This includes the nature of the crisis and current developments. Information should only be withheld for good cause. Untruths and embellishments are taboo – they can further jeopardize the company's reputation.

  • Transparent plan of action: What is the company doing to effectively manage the crisis? – A company must clarify this question to its stakeholders. Consistent communication plays a special role here. If contradicting information is shared, or if the communicated action plan is not followed by implementation, trust is quickly lost.

  • Clear positioning of the company: What is the company's position on the crisis? And how does management assess the situation in this context? – Clear answers should be given to these questions. Crisis managers must also be prepared to answer critical questions.

Good communication in times of crisis pays off: It can maintain or, ideally, even increase the trust of the company's own employees, customers and business partners.

Crisis communication strategy in companies? - Expandable.

In fact, the statistics are sobering: According to a study, only 45% of companies have a documented crisis communication strategy. Even the Corona pandemic has hardly influenced crisis communication in companies. Yet a clearly defined communications strategy can help to ensure that crisis communications are uniformly aligned and yet flexible. 

After all, the expectations and needs of stakeholders change continuously, even during the course of a crisis. The core task of crisis communications is to respond promptly, structure information and share it with the right stakeholders. These also include the public, which means that crisis communication must be understood not only as part of crisis management, but as a special form of public relations.

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