Nataliia Osadcha, the co-founder of S&P Agency Investment Risk Management, told LDaily about the most common mistakes companies make when entering the public domain.
I have been long talking about the need to use crisis communications to resolve business conflicts\crisis of any complexity, including ones with government or law enforcement agencies.
Let’s start with the definition of crisis communication. What is it? According to the theory, crisis communication is an activity aimed at establishing effective relationships between the organization and the public to maintain a sustainable reputation and minimize reputational risks before, during and after the crisis. In other words, when a company is facing a crisis or a business conflict, crisis communications help build an entire communication strategy between the parties to the conflict and the public.
Observing my colleague’s cases, I often notice significant mistakes in crisis communications and sometimes a complete lack of strategy during quite serious business conflicts\crises.
Why are crisis communications essential in business conflicts\crises ?
Firstly, communication is truly an effective tool that helps companies convey to the public objective information about the sense and the company’s position during a time of crisis. This tool is only efficient if it is used correctly, and the executor must have a full understanding of how it works. Most often, external, or internal PR specialists of the company build the crisis communication strategy. Often, they create it together with lawyers or legal advisers who conduct the case, since a PR specialist may not be able see the full depth of the crisis, due to a difference in specialization, and other various factors. At this point, issues may arise, as in Krylov’s famous fable “Swan, Pike and Crawfish”. Most often the Lawyers that are hired to handle the case act as if there is no need to aggravate the situation and lack the deep knowledge of what information should be disclosed, and when or if it should be. On the other hand, our company establishes both an anti-crisis strategy in the field of crisis communications and legal protection during business conflicts\crises. We have gained success in our practice over the years, both in the development of anti-crisis strategies (including crisis communications) and in the implementation (including channel sampling, presentation and spreading information). Our group of companies includes an information agency as well as an online business edition. In addition, the anti-crisis team includes highly professional journalists and best legal advisers.
All team members work together on a common goal and work tirelessly to achieve the best result possible. They clearly understand what to focus on, what to pay special attention to and know what is the most important in the public field. We are fully aware of what we do: confident in the strategies we follow and in the methods we utilize. We have a deep understanding of what the purpose of each message is.
It is important to remember that in the anti-crisis strategy (in the field of crisis communications) one must do not simply go out in the public sphere and shout «Oh my god, please help!». It is vital to be fully aware of what to say, why and what it is possible to gain from such an informative public entry.
This way, the most significant mistake in crisis communications during a conflict\crises is that information is presented in a very chaotic and unsystematic manner. Moreover, incorrect messages during a crisis or conflict can only complicate matters.
As an example, let us analyze the message we saw not so long ago: “A company is under pressure from law enforcement agencies, in particular, they conduct searches on the company’s territory”. It can be stated that this wording is incorrect from the legal perspective, as earlier this company had already stated that a criminal case had been opened against it, and it had not been closed at the time of the search. To talk about “pressure on the business”, it is important to have indisputable and consistent facts. After all, the very fact of an open criminal case, as well as the procedural actions carried out within its framework, including searches, are entirely legal from the point of view of the Criminal Code. Therefore, such inaccurate wording in official statements may not only prevent one from achieving the desired weakening or ending of the conflict\crises, but, on the contrary, lead to its intensification. Law enforcement agencies may take a tougher stance on such a company, because in public they would be accused of “pressure”. Although, the fact of a search in an open criminal case may not be qualified as “pressure”.
The second most common mistake is the lack of any risk assessment of public messages. When a party has already dared to go public and decide to declare that there is a conflict\crises, it needs to be wise in choosing specific words and statements that need will be stated in the public domain. The opposite approach leads to unfortunate consequences. For example, being accused of spreading false information or being pressured by law enforcement agencies.
The third significant mistake is the concealment of the conflict\crises and the non-disclosure of the party’s position on it. This significantly reduces the chances of the conflicting party to a peaceful, transparent and overall, a more peaceful solution to the problem.
Consequently, seemingly simple things such as organizing a conference, an interview, or publishing an official statement as well as engaging business associations (it became a trend, and they should be used for support in resolving conflicts\crises), that must be very carefully selected and calibrated “to the millimeter”. Every word will resonate. However, whether this impact will be positive or negative, depends on the correctly designed and implemented strategy. It is important to not forget that the main purpose of crisis communications is to resolve the conflict\crises, not to intensify it.
As seen above, crisis communication is an effective tool, that is only useful in skilled hands: provided that every word and every formulation of what one wants to communicate to the public is clear and correct. Only then will crisis communications be helpful in the resolving of a conflict\crises, including legal.