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Three tips for dealing with crisis communications

When we hear the phrase crisis communications, often our instinct is to panic.

Our adrenaline goes into overdrive as we fight to overcome whatever challenge lies ahead.

It’s completely natural and we’re all guilty of it.

But, in reality, the absolute worst thing we can do when dealing with a crisis is panic.

As a journalist, I’ve witnessed dozens of crises over the last decade.

From the fatal bin lorry crash in Glasgow’s George Square to both School of Art fires.

From collapsing governments to BHS going bust.

After a while, they can all blur together. Except for those which are handled poorly.

Everyone remembers the Bank of England’s chief economist Huw Pill’s response to the cost-of-living crisis: accept you’re poorer.

Or, when the mother of Spanish FA boss Luis Rubiales went on hunger strike because her son had kissed footballer Jenni Hermoso without consent.

These are prime examples of the reaction to the crisis being so poor it becomes its own story.

How do we avoid this?

The good news is: it’s easier than you’d expect.

Here are three top tips for keeping cool with your crisis communications.

1. Breathe

Crisis communications, andrew mcfarlan speaks to camera

It’s an obvious point but one we so often overlook in a high-pressure situation.

Remember, there’s a difference between urgent and immediate.

While you must be prompt in your response to a crisis, there is always time to pause.

Fight your urge to scramble together whatever you have in front of you at that moment.

Take a breath, think things through and come up with your plan.

2. Empathy first

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People often forget the words you used but remember how you made them feel.

It’s vital that your response to a crisis is an empathetic one.

Does that mean always admitting fault? No.

What it means is that you’re human and you can recognise when someone is distressed.

Whether it’s as small as someone missing out on their favourite product due to a shortage, or as big as someone being injured, show you care.

3. Listen

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We can always improve our listening skills, be it in day-to-day life or in a crisis.

Often, when we’re faced with a difficult situation, we jump to our own conclusions.

Rather than waiting to determine what concerns our audience has, we predict them in an attempt to get ahead.

It sounds like a good idea. Figure out the issue before anyone tells you and rectify it before they complain.

In reality, our presumptions leave us open to missing the entire point our audience wants to raise.

When in doubt, wait it out.

Go to your audience, ask what their concerns are, and go from there.

Three tips for dealing with crisis communications

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Those tips are a great place to start when something’s gone wrong.

But there’s something else you can do.

Let us put your team through their paces.

We’ll simulate the worst-case scenario.

We’ll through in front of the TV cameras, and ask you to write statements under pressure.

Through it all, we’ll share our expertise and analysis on how to get it right.

For more on our crisis communications training, email us today.


Maxine Montgomery is Media & Communications Trainer at Pink Elephant.

Read more about her here.


Photos in crisis communications blog by Pink Elephant Communications and Pixabay.
Crisis communications blog written by Maxine Montgomery.
Crisis communications blog edited by Colin Stone.

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