There Are Stages to Every Crisis
If you search for crisis stages you will get millions of answers. Yet one thing that is consistent is that in every crisis there is an associated communication crisis. Sometimes layered crisis communications problems. As Dr. Seuss says, “I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind.”
From working with organizations of all kinds, we find there are 4 typical stages to any communications crisis. Strong public relations is needed at any stage, but when we get calls are usually at the “Emergency or Anger” phase. The problem is that during “Recovery and New Reality” stages people are forming ongoing relationships for the future.
The one thing we often see from organizations in crisis is a need to go silent. The second problem is going slow. Most feel safe going slow and silent. But that is probably only good in submarine warfare. However, silence is never a good strategy in the court of public opinion. And slow only makes you irrelevant.
When our business flooded in 2008, I remember those who stood up for our business and thoroughly communicated with us throughout the crisis. It is a very short list and not made up of the business leadership you would think.
Each of the 4 stages have unique messaging associated with the problem. No one stage is the most important: However, pay special attention to the Anger stage. This stage can last the longest and bleed into other stages. It is the stage where blame is set–even if it is not deserved. Every crisis needs a scapegoat. And there will be a search until an adequate one is found — best to do messaging to make sure your organization name is not a goat.
The end of the Dr. Seuss quote goes like this, “I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bough a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” The big bat of any crisis is solid public relations/communications strategy.