Ten Commandments of Crisis Statements
In a crisis, anything you say – or even worse, write – will live forever. Nothing dies on the Internet. So here are the first TEN commandments of what not to do in crisis management (There are more.)
Off the cuff. The first thing that comes into your head is probably what you shouldn’t say. The rule is: brain in gear before mouth is engaged. Better to say: ‘no comment at the moment’.
Adjectives and adverbs. These are lethal and must be avoided at all costs. For example, here’s one from my nuclear days: ‘there was a small leak of radioactive water.’ How big is ‘small’? Who knows? YIKES. Or try this with an adverb. ‘we moved quickly to stop the leak.’ Avoid.
Absolutes. A cousin of these is ‘the absolute’. For example, the new railway line will be ready in December 2023. Far too definite. So, to be on the safe side try: ‘we would expect the new line to ready by the end of the decade.’
Crisis? What crisis? You may not think it’s a crisis, but if someone else thinks it’s a crisis, well, then it is. Especially if the someone else is the world’s media.
We have a proud ESG record. So what? That’s all history and anyway no one wants to believe you now. A crisis is not the time for corporate boasting.
Money. No one cares that your share price is through the floor or that the government is about to cut your funding. In fact, many people will be rather pleased – it’s called schadenfreude.
Don’t panic. Like children, people don’t hear the word ‘don’t’. So when the CEO of Silicon Valley Bank asked investors to ‘stay calm’ and not to ‘panic’ people did the exact opposite and the share price tumbled 60 per cent in an afternoon.
F*** off. There is no need to be abusive no matter how stressed you are, that is, unless you want to go viral on YouTube and TikTok.
It’s our suppliers’ fault. Your name is on the brand and you selected those suppliers, so it is still your fault. Fess up and get over it.
Lies. It is better to say nothing than tell any form of lie, be it misinformation or economy with the truth. Tell the truth – it’s easier in the long run.
I just want my life back. This was made famous by Tony Hayward of BP, during the Gulf oil spill where 11 people died. No further comment.
So think before you talk and be careful out there.
Have a good week.