Be Open About What You Know (and Don't Know) - Crisis Communication Strategy 4
Communicating effectively during an emergency is one of the hardest things you will ever do. In fact, it has many moving parts and requires a high degree of concentration, focus, and ultimately, complete honesty.
It is very important to be honest about the crisis. Oftentimes, the situation is dire and there may be the temptation to dress the message up a little or leave facts out of the message. A few years ago, I was tasked with the crisis communication during an emergency and due to a number of variables, outside our control, the work being done appeared less than stellar. My gut reaction was to attempt to paint the state of affairs in a better light. Ultimately, I communicated the truth to the public, and while initially there were some troubles, but allowed us to maintain our credibility over the long term.
In addition to telling the truth, I would encourage you to be complete about what you know or don’t know. Leaving out material causes those who hear your message, fill in the blanks with their own created reality. If you do not have all the information, maybe say that you are waiting to find out more, and will share the latest findings as they become available.
Effective crisis communication is vital. Individuals who do not receive information will create a story themselves. In addition to making sure the information gets shared, it needs to be correct. This isn’t to say that you cannot be creative, but this should never override truth.