(To be continued from the previous post: https://www.arsgem.com/post/effective-communication-in-crisis-management-part-1)
Communication plays a crucial role in crisis management as it serves as a lifeline to effectively handle and mitigate the impact of a crisis. Whether it's a natural disaster, a cybersecurity breach, a product recall, or any other emergency situation, effective communication is vital.
Who Should Communicate?
When it comes to crisis management, determining who communicates is equally vital to what is communicated. While it is often expected that the CEO assumes responsibility during a crisis, this viewpoint fails to consider the broader perspective. In a crisis situation, every individual engaged in external communication should be acknowledged as a spokesperson.
First, it is essential that your spokesperson feels equally comfortable interacting with individuals ranging from high-ranking officers to blue-collar technicians. In the midst of a crisis and its aftermath, you will encounter diverse audiences comprising employees, family members, stakeholders, vendors, suppliers, and the media, each with their distinct backgrounds and interests. We highly recommend conducting a comprehensive analysis of your target audiences, both internally and externally, to determine the most effective methods of connection. Before commencing communication, take the necessary time to consider the impact of the incident on all individuals involved.
Second, a spokesperson with exceptional emotional intelligence is a key requirement. They should embody empathy, humility, and integrity to genuinely extend compassion to those affected by the incident. Failure to prioritize these qualities can result in a new set of problems for the company. A noteworthy example is the case of Lululemon, a prominent Canadian multinational athletic apparel retailer. Lululemon faced a series of scandals due to their CEO mishandling an initial issue. About a decade ago, it was discovered that the company's women's yoga pants were excessively sheer for exercise. Dissatisfied customers sought a solution. Instead of empathetically addressing their concerns and seeking a mutually beneficial solution, however, the company's founder, Chip Wilson, chose to blame women's bodies. He controversially remarked, "Frankly, some women's bodies just don't actually work. It's more really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it." This controversial statement endangered the company. As a result, Wilson had to step down as chairman just weeks later.
Communication with Emergency Management
When a crisis arises, the primary focus of communication is neither your customers nor your stakeholders. It is your employees. It is crucial to thoroughly communicate the core message to all employees to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Regular updates should be provided to keep them informed about the latest developments.
Let me share my personal experience. At my previous condominium, we encountered a water leakage issue that affected multiple floors, causing visible damage. Concerned tenants sought information from the management team, but unfortunately, the concierge staff was ill-equipped to provide the necessary details. Either the information they provided was inaccurate or outdated. Very quickly, a wave of negativity and skepticism quickly spread among the tenants. It took several days before the tenants were finally informed about the general aspects of the incident. To make the matter worse, the property management team failed to update the concierge team with the latest information. As a result, whenever tenants asked them about the procedure of the repair work, they only said "I don't know," throwing their hands in the air. This created a significant loss of trust in the property management team and the board. Shortly thereafter, the property management team was replaced by another company.
We are an emergency management company. our extensive experience has taught us an invaluable lesson: Effective communication holds far greater significance than mere reputation protection and brand enhancement. In the context of efficient property restoration and damage mitigation, swift and effective communication is an absolute necessity.
Let's revisit the condominium example I mentioned earlier. The absence of timely and transparent communication resulted in a significant delay in the restoration process. Technicians needed to check in on some units impacted by the incident but tenants, who held a profound distrust towards the property management and its capabilities, were reluctant to comply. Furthermore, some front desk officers did not even know what to tell or how to guide when restoration technicians arrive at the scene each day.
In any line of work of emergency management, timely responsiveness is the key to efficiently minimizing damage. The longer the delay, the more extensive the harm inflicted upon the property, leading to increased costs.
There is a common misconception that communication ceases once the initial damage has occurred. This is straightforward wrong. Communication is an ongoing process that extends beyond the initial mitigation and repair phase. It represents an opportunity for leaders to redefine and elevate their team dynamics and leadership proficiencies. A crisis will slam you again in the future when you least expect it. You only have two choices: Be prepared or be sorry. Reflecting on the example of Hurricane Katrina, it was not the first time New Orleans had faced a destructive crisis. As early as 1823, the city experienced severe flooding that submerged approximately two hundred blocks for several months. Even after that, for almost two centuries, New Orleans faced repeated instances of small hurricanes and floods. The city had ample opportunities to implement a robust solution to address the issue of the problematic levees. However, all those opportunities were not utilized to create an effective crisis management system. A crisis is an expensive lesson. Do not let your pain go to waste. It is too high a price to pay if you do not seize the opportunity to learn from and thrive on. Education and prevention form essential pillars of impactful leadership. Without them, it is merely a countdown until you face an irreparable crisis and suffer its consequences. In aviation, there is a famous saying that every regulation is written in blood. This signifies that the majority of regulations are implemented in the aftermath of accidents that have claimed or nearly claimed the lives of individuals. Whether you are in aviation or not, this saying imparts a profound piece of wisdom. Embrace the lessons learned from disasters. Make every effort to establish a resilient and reliable system that effectively prevents and addresses future crises. Prioritize education to stay at the forefront of your field and ensure continued success. We are committed to your prosperity. At ARS/Global Emergency Management, we take great pride in providing exclusive specialized educational meetings for property managers. These sessions equip them with foundational knowledge about the building's structure. This empowers them to communicate effectively with restoration technicians in the event of an incident, ensuring swift problem resolution. Our approach has proven to be highly powerful and cost-efficient.