15 Feb 2015

Caution: Words Scream Louder Than Pictures

Did you get the message? Did you

15 Feb 2015

Did you get the message? Did you get the email? Did you see what so-and-so said about such-and-so? We feel there is so much to say in so little time, that often the words that are used scream for our attention instead of providing the big picture of what’s going on around us.

I watched in horror a few weeks back as a bus crashed a news conference (literally) following a tragic event where several workers were injured at a construction site. Proper etiquette would have been to back out from the location and park it until the conference was over. Ah, in a perfect world, maybe. In this instance, the driver opted to jump out of the bus and scream to the world about the importance of keeping to the route and what in the world was the press doing there anyway?

I wasn’t immediately drawn to the fact the bus almost hit the speaker at the conference. I was hit harder by the string of words effusing from the driver’s mouth. The first thought that went through my head is “OMG! I hope the transportation company has a plan in place to respond to what may turn into an ugly situation.” Of course, that was quickly followed by “Wow, that dude almost got hit by a bus in the middle of a press conference.” Naturally the video went viral on every possible news and social media outlet.

Look at your own organization. Is everyone onboard, understanding your company public relations policy? Planning for the most unconventional utterances – verbal, video, written or in cyberspace form -is not something anyone really wants to do. However, if you want what you SAY to be more impactful than what your customers see, it is valuable or worth it to take a few minutes to think about it. Negative publicity can be an ugly can of worms if not properly handled. The absolute worst action one can do is state “No Comment” while the chaos or tragedy continues in the background.

Jot down some of the most important messages your company would want to communicate in a time of crisis. Be creative in thinking about what ‘might’ happen. Center the messaging around the organization’s reputation, safety record, and service to the community or some other intangible fact the audience needs to know. Keep it concise and accurate enough that the message is picked up immediately. Review it regularly; communicate it often so if by chance one of your employees or colleagues gets caught in a spot, they know exactly what to say and whom to defer questions.

Remember: Everyone has a smartphone, email, camera phone or some other mobile device that they can instantly hit ‘send’ on what they see. Sometimes it will float out there harmlessly or it can hit harder than a bus crashing into a news conference. Kudos to the spokesperson keeping it together in an otherwise chaotic situation by simply stepping aside and proceed to communicate what is needed. As for the bus driver, well, perhaps a little less communicating would’ve been helpful. Her words were really loud.

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