Monday, August 01, 2011

New financial crisis? "What NOT to do" public relations rules hold true

As Australia reaches the end of the first month of the 2012 financial year, we're feeling the shudders of global financial uncertainty. The US debt challenges appear handled, for now....but who knows what's around the corner?

Uncertainty, for leaders and communicators, makes it far more challenging to set, and communicate, a course. Where do you lead people "to" when the landscape is unknown and only "where we're coming from" is known?

Often the answer is nowhere. In 2007, 2008 and into 2009 some leaders and communicators were frozen into immobility by the (sometimes overwhelming) dangers presented to their businesses by global financial instability.

Yet those who came through best were often those who, despite uncertainty, took careful stock of the known and the unknown. Then acted.

Some leaders led when it was most needed. Some communicators communicated superbly - proactively, and with a strong sense of their duty of care to investors, clients, and the people working for their company.

It's those leaders whose actions are worth reflecting on now as we face another "interesting time".

Knowing what to do is hard - but what NOT to do was clearly evident.

Once Lehmann declared bankruptcy at the end of 2007, Australia's blithe "we're okay Jack" approach to our role in the world economy was somewhat dented.

When I flew into New York at the time of Lehmann's collapse, it was clear that most business people in Australia believed we would never feel any impact. Two short months later, we watched seasoned finance executives go grey almost overnight as all the rules were changed.

Few knew what to do - how to manage a crisis and how to communicate during one.

It's worth revisiting here some of the lessons we learned for communicating in a crisis.

It's all very well to  know how to communicate in a crisis that involves just one organisation, group of organisations or an industry sector. But the ultimate crisis communication lessons surely have come from the days when it looked like much more was at stake.

Here are our top ten things NOT to do.

1. Say nothing
2. Be overly optimistic or "catastrophise"
3. Make promises you can’t keep
4. Imply you know what’s going to happen now
5. Ignore technology such as webcasts, email, Skype or your website
6. Fail to educate your client with what you do know, as soon as you know it
7. Provide only complex information full of disclaimers
8. Fail to respect the intelligence of your audience
9. Self-justify
10. Understand how your audiences feel

Next post, what TO do.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading. Constructive and relevant comments welcome!