The Fourth "C" of Crisis Communications: Completeness
*Special thanks to Dr. Richard Rush, Director of Communications, City of Tuscaloosa, for his research and thoughts.
Holding back on what you know is tantamount to dishonesty in the eyes of many. The information you convey must be complete to be effective in handling crisis communications.
As explained throughout this series, you must communicate with your stakeholders in a timely fashion, but you must also ensure that the information you are communicating is complete to the best of your abilities. And, for the information that might not yet be complete, informing your stakeholders that there will be additional facts to communicate in the future is crucial. This is important in a crisis but equally important in day-to-day communications.
Waiting while you circle the wagons or form the perfect sound bite often leads to uncertainty in the minds of your stakeholders (see our third “C”: Consistency).
To ease their minds, they must know that you will give them information as quickly as you receive it. Obviously, you must confirm the information first, and they should understand that. However, rather than postponing your response until you know all that there is to know about an event, it may be more beneficial to consistently release some information at predetermined intervals.
For the information you communicate to be complete, you must also seek the complete story.
No one has any patience for someone who chooses not to ask themselves (or their organization) the important questions simply because they are afraid of the answer.
For example, in recent news, it might have been pertinent for police departments to determine whether a police officer who has been accused of excessive force has a prior record of similar disciplinary issues? Be the first to ask because your stakeholders will. And, they will have expected you to.