What are the golden rules of crisis communications? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
At we follow nine rules for managing a crisis. While not all nine are necessarily applicable in every crisis (actually, that's never happened), often two or three are relevant. In order of importance, I present the nine rules of crisis communications:
Rule #1: What you think happened, probably did.
- Don't defend the unknown. If you find yourself wishing or self-convincing, stop.
Rule #2: Facts don't need spin.
- What you attempt to hide will come to light eventually, because there are thousands of savvy journalists working to find the truth at all times.
Rule #3: Bad things happen on weekends, holidays, and when the weather is nice.
- Social media is 24/7, meaning media cycles are now the same.
- Never have your entire Communications team off the grid at once.
Rule #4: We all do windows, we all do floors.
- Many crises turn into an "all-hands" situation; responsibilities can appear at any given time, and no one is above or below any of these tasks.
Rule #5: Don't answer questions based on speculation.
- Don't be afraid to call out a speculative question: "I'm hesitant to speculate, but what I do know is..."
Rule #6: Saying "don't quote me on that" means that you will be quoted.
- Always presume that conversations with reporters are "on the record," unless specifically agreed "off" by both parties.
Rule #7: The media is a terrible lens through which to tell your story.
- A media engagement is a transaction. The press and your company each want something different -- they are rarely the same thing.
Rule #8: Don't repeat the negative.
- Most people don't hear the actual denial. What registers most is the accusation itself.
Rule #9: Never* use your principal to deliver bad news.
- *Unless they are excellent on camera + comprehensively media trained.
BONUS RULE FOR READING THIS FAR!
Rule #10: If you are explaining, you're losing.
- Resist the "If I could only explain then everyone would understand" instinct - it's always wrong.
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