Monthly Archives: October 2013

Being in Washington has professional advantages. We are assailed by all types of communication on a variety of issues—advocacy, mobilization, public awareness, and, too often, crisis.

It isn’t unusual for these types of communication campaigns to happen concurrently and for different issues.

Some of the best strategic communication thinkers are here in Washington and we get to see their talents on display in the traditional news, digital media, and on the street (spontaneous protest are not so spontaneous).

Credit: CQ Roll Call

Credit: CQ Roll Call

Unfortunately, we also get to regularly witness some heavy-handed or non-strategic communication…

And this week has been a good example of that.

The www.healthcare.gov website finger-pointing went to the Hill today…and it was a vivid reminder of what not to do when handling a major crisis situation.

For those fortunate enough never to have had to deal with crisis communication, here are the basics of crisis management:

Step 1: Admit Wrong. You wouldn’t be here if something didn’t go haywire.

Step 2: Take responsibility for the situation. Don’t blame others. This is especially true when your client is the US Government (Just saying). Explain what the problem is in simple and clear language.

Step 3: Explain how you are fixing the problem. Spell it out in practical, concrete language. Describe how and when you expect things to be righted.

Step 4: This goes for all the Steps: Don’t lie. Don’t complain. Don’t whine. Don’t overstate. But especially: Do. Not. Lie.

Step 5: If you don’t know something, say you don’t know. Don’t speculate and don’t hypothesize.

Hope you don’t need to use these. But now when you watch people and organizations handle a bad situation you’ll know what to listen and look for….and determine how they do.