Idle words, idle silence: no place in crisis communications

Idle words, idle silence — neither have any place in crisis communications and reputation management. Every word and every silence must serve a purpose.

We are often asked by clients: What do we say? Do we need to say anything?

The answer depends largely on three (3) things:

1. What is being done to address the problem or issue?

2. Who needs to know?

3. What objective will be achieved by saying something? Or nothing?

We have been involved on several matters where a problem is being actively addressed, but the information does not need to be shared — or is not appropriate to be shared — with any audience. They don’t need to know. It doesn’t impact them. It will not affect them.

Similarly, there are those situations where a client could say something about the issue, but it will only inflame debate. This is often the case with social media (Facebook in particular). Someone posts a comment or review on a client’s page, but responding will only create more exposure and actually not achieve any meaningful objective (engagement, accountability, taking responsibility, making amends, etc.). The individuals making the attacks will not be appeased by what is communicated — they will only be stirred to post more negative comments and attacks.

There are, of course, many times when social media engagement as an absolute must — it’s where we live now, and it’s where we get our information. In many crisis or critical issue situations, stakeholders are waiting to be informed about a situation, how it affects them, and what the organization is doing to take care of the issue. Social media is THE place to do it. It must be done carefully, however — otherwise you end up with fodder for more repetitional assaults.

Every situation calls for it’s own analysis of the three above-listed factors. Whether the decision is made to communicate or stay silent for the time being, it must be an intentional strategy designed to achieve a desired objective.

Nothing idle about it.