One of the easiest things in the world to do is lash out at people when you feel as though you’ve been wronged. One of the hardest things to do is to keep your cool under pressure.
At the Ammerman Experience, we understand both scenarios all too well. While it might be tempting to discredit someone’s reputation in a media statement or a press release, the chances are high that it will come back to bite you in the end. If you don’t choose your language carefully, and instead choose to communicate defensively in the heat of the moment, you’ll likely exacerbate an already tense situation.
Sometimes, though, even after careful consideration, companies may not realize that the words they’ve chosen will escalate a difficult situation instead of diffusing it. In those moments, it can be invaluable to have an objective, expert perspective applied to communication before it’s sent out to the world. That’s why our clients use us for crisis communication help when difficult situations arise.
All they need to do is call us before they hit send. Here’s how one of our clients put that into practice.
Communicating with Stakeholders in Mind
It’s always important to communicate with the interests of stakeholders in mind. As a school, there’s extra incentive to communicate well, because the stakeholders are parents and community members.
That being the case, when something happens that requires a response, it’s very important to take the time to carefully craft a statement that will serve stakeholders well and communicate the facts of the issue clearly. But it’s also important not to use attacking language, and to protect the privacy of teachers and student. Walking this balance can be difficult – and it’s even more so in the midst of conflict. Remember, it’s always better to look for crisis communication help before a crisis happens.
When an Issue Arises at a School
Unfortunately, conflict isn’t uncommon. One school found this out the hard way.
It began when a handful of students and teachers complained of headaches, and expressed concern that those headaches may have been caused by an environmental issue in the school building.
The school responded quickly, and had every organization available to them check the school to make sure that there were no health hazards present. The resulting reports and surveys found minor things that needed repair, but concluded that there were no major issues that would affect the health of the school’s occupants.
False Information Fueled the Flames
In spite of that, the situation continued to escalate, to the point that the community became involved, the media were brought in, and protests were held.
For the school, it was especially frustrating to deal with the situation because there was a lot of misinformation going around. While those involved were doing everything they could to ensure that students were safe, the media storm had become intense as inaccurate information had spread.
In an effort to combat misinformation, the school worked to release a media statement that would clarify the situation. They didn’t react in the heat of the moment – they put careful consideration into their statement. But, they were emotionally involved in the situation. Because of that, they recognized the need for an objective review of their communication before they released it.
So, before they hit send, they called us.
Remove Emotive Language and Communicate Clearly
When the statement was sent to us for review, three things were clear:
- The school had put thought into their statement, making sure that it addressed the misinformation swirling around the situation.
- The school had channeled their frustration into the language of the statement, and, if released unedited, the statement likely would have escalated the situation.
- The school needed crisis communication help.
Escalation was not the result that the school needed. What they needed was for the media storm to subside.
It’s important to remember: passion for what you do is important, but if you get too caught up in vindicating your perspective and slamming misinformation, what you’ve created is a platform that allows the media to keep the story alive. Your frustration can make the story even more interesting, when all you want is for the story to go away.
Accordingly, we worked with the school to deescalate the situation. We helped the school to rework their statement, using language that was less aggressive and more objective. The result was a statement that clearly communicated the facts of the situation, without throwing blame in the other direction.
With its release, the school avoided piquing even more public interest – and sure enough, over time, the story subsided.
You May Not Have a War Room, but You Can Get Crisis Communication Help
Here’s the truth: situations like this one happen all the time, to organizations big and small. And, while some politicians or the biggest corporations have war rooms full of consultants compiling advice on the best course of action, most organizations do not.
What every organization can have, though, is access to crisis communication help and expertise.
At the Ammerman Experience, businesses trust us when it comes to crisis communication help. While we offer training classes and workshops, we’re also available to consult in the midst of difficult situations as they arise. The principles of good communication are valuable, and they’re most valuable when they’re applied to your unique context. So, next time a context arises that might be best handled with a healthy does of objectivity and communication expertise, give us a call.
Don’t make a major mistake that you’ll wish you could take back. Contact us today for communication and media training options that can serve you now, and in your time of need.