There is a lot of great crisis communications advice available, so I won’t reiterate any of that information here, but I’ve noticed that there is one thing that is relevant to a lot of industries that typically isn’t emphasized in crisis communications:
After the event, you must be visible in the community again as fast as possible
The natural instinct after a crisis is to skip the community meetings you regularly go to because, well, you are busy dealing with the aftermath of the crisis. While that is understandable, I don’t believe that is the right approach.
Obviously, if you really are in the middle of the crisis, you can’t go. But, when the immediate threat is over, it’s important to get back to your regular community relations as fast as you can. Why do I think this is the best approach? Two reasons:
- You being there signals that everything is under control. After a crisis, people will be looking for you at your regular community meetings. If you aren’t there, people are going to naturally assume that you are still dealing with the crisis, which signals to them that it’s not necessarily over with.
- You want them to come to you to answer their questions. Following classic cognitive dissonance theory, people will seek to understand the crisis situation. Where there is a lack of information, they will look for the information and/or make assumptions to fill in the voids. It is my opinion that this is how a lot of false information is started. Instead, you want to be where the community influencers are, encourage them to ask you questions, and then answer them as honestly and openly as you can. That should minimize any long-term pr and community relations damage, especially when it comes to false rumors.
I know dealing with a crisis is not fun, but as soon as you can, dust yourself off and get right back to your community meetings. It will do you a lot of good in the long run.