Crisis management is the overall coordination of an organisation’s response to a crisis, in an effective and timely manner, with the goal of avoiding or minimising damage to an organisation. Crisis management includes the development of plans, cased upon integral external organisations, to reduce the risk of a crisis occurring and to deal with any crisis that does arise. Crisis management also includes strategy communication to avoid bias, misunderstanding, and distress feelings.
Psychologist Lomas T. in his research found that words have their own power and should be critically selected when it comes to discussing health or crisis because the words you choose will have an impact on people’s perceptions. This perception will result in a good and positive feeling and behaviour if the chosen words are correct. On the other hand, poor word choices will quickly escalate an incident from a crisis to public relation disaster.
See also: Leadership Characteristics to Successfully Manage Crisis
The problem is, when an unexpected incident occurs, it will be hard for leaders to analyse nuance, advised Mark Clark, Director of Navigate Response. That being said, at the very last effort to mitigate a critical situation, Mr Clark shared the following phrases to avoid in your crisis communication with both stakeholders or media.
A crisis is a catastrophe that could damage overall business operation. There is no word minor for an unexpected incident, even for companies that have crisis plans in place. Therefore, it is best to avoid the word “minor”.
Albeit the crisis does not directly affect the company’s bottomline, this might damage your business reputation in the face of the media and stakeholders. Remember that companies have always had social and environmental responsibility that should be fulfilled.
Saying “no comment” is seen as an indication of guilt and it is not appropriate to use because it shows how ignorant your community is to the public.
This is called tempting fate. No one can guarantee what will happen in the future, therefore, it is wiser to not promise something that is unlikely to happen.
This phrase is harsh to say and is likely to make your people wonder further. This phrase might also not be calming in times of crisis because, oftentimes, people seek job security instead of just compensation for their future job during and after a crisis.
As a leader, to directly admit that you don’t know anything is rude. Instead, you can try a wiser and calming phrase like “At the current time, we are working to establish the cause of the incident. When we have further information we will let you know”.
Clark advised that leaders should never use the phrases of self-congratulatory during a crisis communication even if you have done a great job. This might indicate a lack of empathy.
It is true and correct to show our care and empathy for a crisis or disaster. However, this exact phrase does the exact opposite. It lacks sincerity and compassion. This phrase also sounds hollow. The alternative to this phrase could be, “I know the whole team has been thinking about everyone involved…”
It is so dangerous for a leader to say “not sure” and “guess” during crisis communication. Albeit, as a leader, you don’t know what to do yet or the plan has failed and you need time to generate another plan, it is better to avoid this phrase. Leaders should just stick to the facts that they know at the time and that they have or plan to take action to help with the crisis.
Read also: How HR Manage the Negative Effects in Crisis Management