Maria Samos Sanchez

The holy Grail of communication: the crisis!

Crises are the source of news and, above all, fulfill the relevance criteria for journalists, because they represent a disruption in everyday life. In this blog post, our Head of Corporate Communications, Maria Samos, describes how to deal with crises properly, what challenges and opportunities they offer, and what distinguishes good crisis communication.


"Crisis is a productive condition one must only take away the flavor of a catastrophe.” ~ Max Frisch


With the global crisis over COVID-19, everyone has experienced the unpredictable magnitude of a crisis: uncertain stock markets, lost sales for local, national, and global companies, and unstable business models in all industries. The war in Ukraine has shown us a new, no less threatening side of a crisis that in this case is hitting hard, or will hit, everyone. 

Crises and communications go hand in hand. During a crisis, everyone is interested in information and gets it mainly through digital media, because they are faster than newspapers. For another, such a crisis increases the pressure on those responsible, who may be inclined to issue erroneous or unprepared statements - if they say anything at all. After all, saying nothing is just as damaging as communicating the wrong thing. In companies in crisis, silence can not only damage the working atmosphere, but lead to loss of credibility and trust, even and especially beyond the company's own employees. 


Possible causes of a crisis

Usually, an event itself triggers a crisis - for example, accidents in companies (chemical accident at Bayer in 2001), scandals (Cum-Ex- Cum-Cum financial scandal in 2020) or "terrorism" (cyberattack on Israeli websites in 2022). Quite topical, the crisis at Lufthansa, where due to lack of staff flight cancellations, delays and missing luggage, must switch the boardroom into crisis mode. And this is where communication starts: the way such an event is handled, and the way this crisis is managed, can lead to even greater escalation and severely damage a company's image. Human error or natural events can be excused. But if monetary backgrounds and under-complexity in planning are to blame, fast, transparent and honest communication is the only solution.


Analysis precedes the crisis  

Good planning and analysis on the probability of damage occurring are the cornerstone of crisis communication. If I can assess in advance what the dangers are in my company, good decision-making and information bases can be created that can be called up and processed immediately if necessary. Because only well-prepared, transparent and clearly structured crisis communication protects against speculation and can save a company from permanent damage to its image. This will also, in the event of a "surprise crisis", keep the initial chaos phase short. 


Preparation – Crisis management – Follow-up – Prevention

After the analysis, it is important to take preventive measures, especially to safeguard foreseeable crises. For all other crises, it is important to appoint a crisis team whose responsibilities, functions and procedures are precisely defined and who know what needs to be done, how and at what time. 

To this end, a crisis manual is drawn up with all the contact details and behavioral patterns that are important in a crisis situation. This also includes all persons who take telephone calls, because it is specifically in such a crisis that journalists will try to collect as much information as possible. A clear wording from the management to the concierge must be ensured. Especially when people and goods are endangered, a quick reaction and immediate communication is important. Therefore, such a manual will identify different crisis levels, which will be addressed accordingly. Once the crisis has been mastered, it is important to deal with the follow-up work accordingly. This partially already takes place during the crisis, in which the actions taken in the crisis are documented. According to the knowledge gained from the crisis, the courses of action can be adapted or supplemented. And thus, preparedness and analysis starts again. 


Openness, transparency, credibility, dialogue orientation

Good crisis communication is always characterized by these four principles:

1. Openness about the fact that a crisis has occurred

2. Transparency about what exactly happened, who was involved or harmed

3. Credibility is generated primarily through the transfer of information, professional expertise, honesty and the company's own attitude toward the crisis

4. Demonstrating an openness to dialog with employees and the public and not hiding behind closed doors.


Apart from these four principles, good crisis communication is always characterized by speed (active and early), truthfulness (factual, transparent, true), comprehensibility (short, simple, straightforward, pictorial) and consistency (uniform, coordinated and continuous). 


Prevention matters!

Wherever people act, crises can and will occur. In order not to damage oneself, one's company and one's image, planning ahead of a crisis is essential. And that we cannot not communicate, was already known by the communication expert Paul Watzlawik. Even without words, we are always in communication with our fellow human beings - regardless of whether we want to or not.


Would you like to learn more about crisis communication? Contact us!

Let‘s drive your success story.