A typical crisis contingency message

I wrote last week about having communications ready for every crisis eventuality. The world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffett, said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Rushing out ill-considered statements is a sure way to ruin it.

One approach to keeping things on message and simple is the “Message House”. You can read about that here. It’s a technique for any situation, but it works in crisis communications too. It suggests asking:

  1. What’s the big picture?
  2. What’s in it for the audience?
  3. What is the most likely criticism?
  4. What do you want your audience to do?

I’ve seen this pinned on someone’s wall as a day-to-day guideline. It’s not a bad idea.

In the current situation, this could direct a typical crisis contingency message to be something like:

  1. We’ve got the following situation at the company
  2. Things are under control behind the scenes and your service will remain unaffected
  3. However, we’ve had to divert customer contact resources to core operations
  4. Please trust us to continue serving you, and help by only contacting us in emergencies

Many businesses get this sort of thing very wrong, when a methodical approach might be all that’s needed.