*Special thanks to Dr. Richard Rush, Director of Communications, City of Tuscaloosa, for his research and thoughts.
Being honest and genuine during a crisis is the best way to ensure that uncertainty does not grow in the minds of your stakeholders, both internal and external. Uncertainty is the most devastating attribute of a crisis.
If you aren’t certain about a fact yet, don’t make assumptions. Because a crisis is dependent on the perceptions of stakeholders, it is important to manage the uncertainty in their minds. You must be certain of what you are communicating, and the recipients must be certain of your certainty.
If you aren’t honest and genuine upfront, the truth will inevitably catch up with you, and you will never have the confidence and trust of your recipients again. Regaining their faith is much harder than keeping it to begin with. Doing this begins with honest and open communication before a crisis ever occurs.
If a stakeholder believes that you have their well-being in mind, they are much more likely to weather the storm with you instead of standing by as a spectator. There are countless stories of organizations and individuals that have suffered crises in which their stakeholders helped to pull them through, and as a result, the organization came out stronger on the other side. This doesn’t happen unless the stakeholders truly believe that you would do the same for them.
This characteristic applies to other communications as well. Even in personal communications, assumptions lead to problems. And so does uncertainty.