Lessons in Crisis Communication for 2022

Lessons in Crisis Communication for 2022

The rise of social media, the internet, and our ubiquitous mobile devices is having a profound impact on the way we communicate, and the spotlight is never brighter than in our darkest times. In 2020, we realized that companies needed to have a presence on social media platforms to manage their online reputation.
However, by the end of 2022, we realized that this was not enough. Examples from the past year show that companies need to be fully involved in the discussion or they risk being overwhelmed by bad news. 
In this new year, we step into a new reality: The lessons of 2022 have forever changed how we approach crisis communication. Here's what we learned about how to approach crisis communication quickly, calmly, and honestly. 

Communicate Quickly Responding to a Crisis 

In 2022, we learned the importance of contingency planning. If the organization prepares in advance, almost any problem can be solved before it spirals out of control. In retrospect, Southwest Airlines has exposed the pitfalls of not having a comprehensive contingency plan. Winter weather blocked hundreds of flights, and angry customers turned the situation into a public slump. In the first nine months of the year,  the airline topped the earnings table, but the cancellation of more than 60% of flights in two days and the lack of timely communication hurt the company's financial situation and reputation.
 With a growing awareness of how people use technology to share stories, information, and opinions, we better understand the need for timely communication. Social media has transformed the way people and organizations communicate and represents a watershed moment in crisis communications. Before social media, companies controlled their messages by only speaking to specific outlets or sharing information on their websites. Social media today offers everyone a platform and moves at breakneck speed.
As social media became a tool for public communication, organizations faced challenges and opportunities in their crisis management strategies. Perhaps more than anything else, 2022 has shown us the importance of staying one step ahead of the crisis through timely communication. 

Dealing with the crisis Communicate confidently 

A clear proof of the value of calm handling of a crisis is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj. The former TV actor and comedian took the spotlight, and the world watched as he and his nation fought off a global powerhouse. This young leader has handled the situation with exceptional calm despite only entering the presidency and political scene in 2019. He united his people and gave them the courage they needed in times of crisis.
To deal with a crisis in cold blood, organizations must recognize that they cannot control the message; they can only influence it. When organizations step back and let go of their need for control, they are much more likely to participate calmly in the conversation. To analyze the conversation and determine the best way to participate, companies need to understand their audiences and expectations. In 2022, we learned that when communicating in a crisis, we should focus on the audience, not the organization.

taking responsibility for the crisis

Organizations prefer to present themselves as excellent. However, like humans, they tend to make mistakes. Hiding is never the answer. When organizations lie, even about the smallest things, it breeds distrust among employees, consumers, and investors. Slack in 2022 didn't even try to challenge its loyal fans. It maintained its authenticity during downtime, even deceiving itself during emergency response, and this transparency kept loyal users connected to the organization. Looking back, many remember only one crisis when it hit their organization, as it was resolved quickly and smoothly by the Slack organization. 

Slack in 2022 didn't even try to challenge its loyal fans. It maintained its authenticity during downtime, even deceiving itself during emergency response, and this transparency kept loyal users connected to the organization. Looking back, many only remember the crisis when it hit their organization, as it was resolved quickly and smoothly by the Slack organization.
In 2022, we learned that people are not passive recipients of information but active participants in the conversation. Businesses need to remember that they don't sell to markets; they sell to people, and people deserve respect. Because organizations deal with people with feelings and personalities, they cannot avoid or control conversations. While they can influence them, therein lies the opportunity for organizations that want to win. To be trusted, we must participate honestly and openly in discussions.

Sweeping a crisis under the rug is never the right answer 

Before 2022, many organizations adopted a strategy where ignoring the problem was the best way to forget it. But the fact that FIFA hosted the World Cup in Qatar last year reveals a personnel crisis that has been going on for almost a decade and is going nowhere. Ever since FIFA fans and sports enthusiasts discovered the corruption, all of the organization's old grievances have surfaced, such as women's rights and LGBTQ+ rights. When organizations refuse to admit they are wrong, things can only get worse, as we saw in Qatar.
It's time to start the conversation. Organizations cannot expect people to stop talking. On social platforms, the discussion is at eye level, where everyone has an equal voice, and organizations need to get involved if they want to influence their message or reputation. Not engaging in this conversation is ignoring reality. If you choose not to join the conversation,  someone else will fill in that gap with their own story, often a story that casts your organization in a negative light.
Gone are the days of hiding behind the slogan "no comment." In today's world, organizations must be transparent and honest at all times, even if that means admitting mistakes or flaws in the business model that led to the crisis. If an organization cannot be authentic or admit its mistakes, there is no point in communicating; the company will never deserve trust or respect. When faced with an emergency, it's best to join the conversation and not try to stop it.

Conversations in times of crisis say more about organizations than they realize. The lessons of 2022 make it clear that organizations need to both listen and speak. 
 To communicate effectively during a crisis, organizations must recognize that they no longer have control over what people hear or say about them. Therefore, they must react quickly and calmly. Ignoring a problem will never make it go away. Instead, they must be open and honest with the public about their actions (good or bad) and how they deal with the smallest details like product recalls, customer complaints, and allegations of employee misconduct.

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Hey, I’m Rachid. I’m a writer. I am a fan of technology, sports, and education. I’m also interested in entrepreneurship and design.

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