Marketing

Crisis Communications: What to do when ‘Stuff’ Happens

Protecting your reputation is a matter of strategic planning.

March 27, 2013
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

Stuff happens, and credit unions must be ready to respond with a crisis communication plan when it does, says Jeanne Ouellette, founder/principal of Winly Communications.

She addressed the 20th Annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Too often, leaders take on a “bunker mentality” when a crisis strikes, Ouellette says, hunkering down and withholding information from the press, staff, and members. Instead, leaders should “fill the information vacuum by helping to shape coverage of the crisis. Saying ‘no comment’ makes no sense. Spread the message that you care.”

“Transparency and honest communication are expected today,” she continues. “It’s a dialogue, not a monologue.”

While specific crises can’t be anticipated, types of mishaps can, such as a security breach. Ouellette advises developing scenario-based communication plans covering possible misfortunes.

“Pay attention to what’s happening within your credit union, and watch for outside events that could affect it,” she says. “Look within and look around. What could become a crisis?”

Also, recognize that the media has a right—and responsibility—to cover crises. “Acknowledge that fact and work effectively with your local media. Build equity with the media now—it will be too late after a crisis.”

Ouellette offers these crisis communication tips:

Don’t give a story legs. Have a crisis communication plan in place and respond during the same news cycle in which a crisis is reported.

Protect your credibility. Never say something you can't prove and, above all, never lie.

“That doesn’t mean you have to reveal everything,” Ouellette says. “But your reputation is your most valuable asset. Once you lose trust, it’s hard to regain it.”

Set the proper tone in your communications. If you’re calm and confident, you’ll come off better.

Argue with your lawyers. They’ll err on the side of avoiding litigation while you’ll likely side with members or employees. Find a compromise.

Know your stakeholders. You’ll need them during a crisis.

“It’s always better to have others advocate for you,” Ouellette says.

Centralize communications so you speak with one voice.

“That said, don’t forget your people,” she adds. “Member-facing staff are a critical link in crisis communications. Members will ask them what’s going on. Give staff something to say that’s consistent with your central communications.

“Reputation is a matter of perception. Protecting it is the result of strategic planning.”

Post a comment to this story

heroes

What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive