Being able to advise our clients on how to manage a potential crisis communications event is important to us. Over the years we’ve advised a number of nonprofits on communicating effectively during a crisis.
First off, “crisis” needs a definition.
A communications crisis isn’t necessarily for a negative reason. It’s any situation where an organization must respond publicly to a distraction that’s disrupting regular, daily operations. A crisis doesn’t have to mean that you’re communicating to manage a negative event; a good reason to be communicating can be just as disruptive to a nonprofit’s operations.
Here are a few key points to remember:
- Not everything warrants a response. Is someone speaking negatively about your organization? If their concern is valid, address it. If it’s not think about how much energy you want to spend trying to quell this person (which may not be any).
- If the concern is valid, silence can be seen as an admission of guilt. You’ll have to respond with something, so craft your messaging accordingly.
- If your organization doesn’t have all the answers or solved the problem at hand, you can say so. In fact, admitting that you don’t have the answers but your organization is working on them can foster trust with your audience.
- When is the right time for a response? The most important thing isn’t getting your messaging out there quickly, but responding when your strategic response is ready. You can let your audience know you’re listening to their concerns by sending word that you’ve heard them and you’ll be commenting shortly.
- Donors scrutinize their favorite organizations. Assure them that things are fine if in fact they really are. Maintain that level of trust at all costs.
- Finally, trial and error is OK. What one organization communicates during a crisis isn’t necessarily going to be right for another organization. You know your audience better than anyone, so consider that when you craft your messaging.