In the event of a crisis, effective communication
can be the difference between a safe and informed audience, and people putting their lives at risk.
These seven points can help you craft an effective risk or crisis communication strategy.
1. Partner With the Public
In any crisis, employees need to be informed about the situation and how to respond. At the outset, they may have minimal knowledge of the risks they are facing, so addressing that from the start and engaging them in a dialogue will help you establish effective communication moving forward.
2. Plan and Evaluate Your Efforts
Before you craft your message, you have to know who your audience is, the outrage level, the hazard level and the setting. With this foundation, you can develop an effective plan for communication and help develop trust with your audience. Using those criteria as a baseline, you can then gauge the effectiveness of your messaging and make any necessary corrections or adjustments.
3. Listen to Concerns
To develop trust in the event of a crisis, people have to know that you are listening to their viewpoint and taking their concerns seriously. People want to see that you are empathetic to what they are facing, that you see their concerns as valid and deserving of time and effort to discuss them.
4. Be Honest, Frank and Open
A principal factor in whether your message is effective is whether your audience trusts you and feels that you are credible. The best way to establish trust is to be open and honest about a risk or crisis and how it will affect them. If this is not central to your messaging, your audience will begin to lose trust in you and that can be difficult to regain.
5. Coordinate and Collaborate With Other Credible Sources
Messaging can’t be effective if it’s not properly coordinated. That’s why everyone involved in crafting messaging must be on the same page. Conflicting messaging will only frustrate your employees and make them less likely to trust you moving forward.
6. Meet the Needs of the Media
Along with your employees and the public, the media is another Important partner in this process. Establishing relationships with media members will help to ensure that the messages broadcast align with what your narrative. You should also remember that the media’s needs may differ from your employees and the public; as such you may need to craft separate messages for each group.
7. Speak Clearly and With Compassion
In a crisis, things can change by the minute and you need to be able to speak with clarity on any new developments. Therefore, be sure to practice your messaging and rehearse various scenarios so you can address them comfortably with your audience. Speaking with compassion is also crucial, particularly if an incident or situation has resulted in injuries or fatalities, to demonstrate to your audience that you and your organization care
This list is based on information from a June 2010 article from Professional Safety Journal, “Risk and Crisis Communication: Essential Skills for Today’s SH&E Professional” by Pam Ferrante (now Walaski). Want to receive a monthly subscription to Professional Safety, ASSP’s top-ranked benefit? Become an ASSP member
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