Every organization eventually faces a crisis - or more than one - that has public or client implications. Here are two situations your business may find itself in: (1) Making an honest - or dishonest - mistake; (2) Being honest but wrongfully perceived as being dishonest.
1) Making an honest - or dishonest - mistake. In my 40 years of communication experience, I've seen one invariable truth: when you hide the truth to mute an emerging crisis, the ramifications of that crisis invariably grow to monumental and even caricatured proportions.
Frankly, if you’re not honestly and transparently solving major emerging problems, the public - or your clients will still - at some point - find out one way or another. In that scenario, you'll be forced to eventually confess publicly, but only after evident silence or denials regarding the truth. And you'll still have to fix the problem, only under greater public scrutiny.
It’s ALWAYS better to tell the truth.
It’s the basic kindergarten lesson: tell the truth, be nice and admit when you’re wrong. If you do these things, business life will go pretty well for you and your pain will be momentary because of your honesty. If you duck and weave around problems, they'll only grow, and result in long-lasting issues for your company.
Think about the Gulf oil spill: Gulf tried to mute the crisis at first, resulting in huge blow-back. The Target credit card breach: Target quickly - and wisely - announced the security lapse and is embracing the changes it must undergo in the future. Now go way, way back: Watergate. Nixon's avoidances created an avoidable, gargantuan American crisis that cost him his presidency.
(2) Being honest and being wrongfully perceived as dishonest. What if you’re right and have the facts on your side? As always, simply rely on the truth. MCCI advocates avoiding a combative war of words when in crisis (he said, she said). Just speak to factual truths and the sources from which they originated. Rest on the truth.
Naysayers will always be there, it’s just a matter of handling them in an honest way to show you’re being truthful. Trying to make someone who hates you to actually like you is almost always futile. Sleep well at night knowing you’ve done the right thing. When you accurately source your truths, you can leave the rest to Providence.
Crisis management is never easy, but relying on honesty can and should be the cornerstone of all your communications.