When your company experiences a crisis, you face a choice: Comment or no comment. Here are five questions to ask yourself that will guide your decision:
1. Will the news get out even if you don’t comment?
2. Can the media interview an employee, a competitor, a former employee, or an industry expert if you choose not to comment?
3. When the story appears (when, not if) would it be better to have your side of the story included, even if it is at the bottom of the page?
4. Will your customers be better off hearing the news from you than from the news media?
5. Would it be better for you to break the story (control the message) before someone else does?
The obvious answer to each question is yes. Yes, the story will get out; there is always someone willing to provide information. Yes, it is better to have your side included. Yes, your customers should hear it from you first. Yes, it is better to control the message than react to it. And yes, the words “no comment” will be negatively perceived.
It’s tempting during a crisis to duck and take cover, but as the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” During a crisis is exactly when you want customers, employees, and the media to hear from you. Even if your only choice is to acknowledge the crisis, it is an opportunity to humanize the company, be apologetic and—most importantly—state what the company will do moving forward to rectify the situation and ensure it doesn’t happen again.