Winning Friends In A Crisis – How To Manage Communications When Things Go Wrong!

Winning Friends In A Crisis – How To Manage Communications When Things Go Wrong!

Bad things happen in all organizations. Sometime the problem lies within the organization, sometimes it is the environment outside that causes a crisis. To respond well as a manager, you need a strategy that will do the following

  • Deal with the problem causing the crisis;
  • Assist any victims and those directly affected;
  • Communicate with, and enlist, the support of employees.
  • Inform those indirectly affected; and
  • Manage the media and and all external stakeholders in the organization.

When it comes to communication, there seven dimensions to consider if you want to communicate in a way that limits damage to the reputation of the organization. There may be limitations on what you can say for legal reasons, but the nearer you get to covering the seven dimensions, the more effective your communications will be.

Here are the seven dimensions;

  1.  Candor. A public acknowledgement that a problem exists and a commitment to put it right, usually wins trust and respect for the organization.
  2. Explanation. Explain promptly and clearly what went wrong, based on the knowledge available at the time. If there is not yet full information, make a commitment to report regularly and tell people when they can expect more information. Continue making reports until full information is available or public interest dissipates.
  3. Declaration. Make a clear public commitment to take steps to address and resolve any issues raised by the incident.
  4. Contrition. Make it clear that you, and those in charge of the organization, are sorry for what has happened, show empathy and regret. If there is reason to be embarrassed, then show embarrassment about what has happened and for allowing it to happen.
  5. Consultation: Ask for help from pubic authorities and anyone else who can provide it if that will help those hurt or prevent this from happening again. Do this even if it means accepting help from opponents or competitors.
  6. Commitment: Be prepared to make a promise that, to the best of the organization’s ability, similar situations will never occur again.
  7. Restitution: Find a way to quickly pay the price, compensate and make restitution.

Show in your communications that you are prepared to go beyond what people would expect, or what is legally required, to put things right. Adverse situations remedied quickly, usually cost far less and are controversial for much shorter periods of time.

This is the gold standard, but the closer you get to it, the more respect there will be for you, and your organization, and the sooner the public are likely to forgive, if not forget.

Wendy Mason is a career coach.  She helps people reach their goals and aspirations, without sacrificing their home and personal life.  Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR.  She now divides her time between coaching and writing. You can contact Wendy at and find out more at

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