The eternal denial of the power of Communications during crises

Silvia Albert

It is hard for me to come to terms with the fact that, after so many years in this profession, there are still companies out there that refuse to acknowledge that they have a communications crisis.

Although I entered this profession a long time ago, I continue to be surprised (and angry, why should I deny that?) at how organizations refuse to accept that when a situation arises that is different from their day to day, they have to handle it in a different manner.

Globalization has brought us many advantages but also the absurd belief that everything is equal everywhere, that we should respond to everything in the same way and that the public interest is the same, wherever you are. A Craso error (to make a direct reference to Marco Licinio Craso).

Moreover, the communication of an organization should not change because it is managed by a Dircom or an agency. Both represent the interests of the organization (its image and reputation) and they are (whether in-house or not), the responsible ones for the coordination, management and guidance of the work during a crisis.

It is difficult to comprehend that there are still companies, big and small, that ignore the importance of a crisis policy, one that is compiled in a crisis manual. They ignore the importance of a standard operating procedure and a specific team whose role is to manage this situation. We have found ourselves in this difficult situation more times than we would have liked.

Once a crisis arises, all eyes turn towards Communications and demand the ‘control’ of the situation, whether there is a standard approach in place or not. Moreover, everyone gets involved whether they are experts in Communications or not (generally the latter).  This is the moment you find yourself with real terrorists of coherence, who always advocate for ‘no comment’ and then strangle you when they read things they do not like. They are the ones who skipped the lesson of “what you do not say, others will say for you.”

During this uproar, if you should be so lucky (or is it be so unlucky?) as to coordinate a communications team that is made up of various international communications teams, you can be sure there will be chaos. It is a recipe for disaster. It does not matter what has happened or why this situation has arisen: everyone eventually gets involved. Moreover if possible, they do so without really moving out of our comfort zone or even having to think too much. The most important thing to them is to make it clear that they are the best and continue blowing their own trumpets. And that´s that! Do you really think it is though? Who in their right mind, would think that it is a good idea to simply say “we have no comment” and continue thinking you are great because you simply say you’re great.

As Churchill used to say, preparation is the best improvisation.  And I would add that the work of a team is the best approach, especially in Communications. But when you are in a crisis, it is important you agree on the approach and come up with coherent and serious messages. Your objectives are fundamental as is getting advice from those who truly know and not from those who are pseudo-professionals, who skipped that crucial lesson of how to bridge the gap between reality and desire.

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