Relationships are complex.  We can all attest to this.  You don’t have to be a sociology major (I only minored) to recognize how multifaceted, difficult, confusing, yet rewarding most relationships can be. 

All relationships are packaged differently, and unfortunately most come unassembled, and without a user manual.  Knowing what or what not to say, how to say it, when to say it and who should say it is important especially when a relationship is damaged. 

How you communicate during a crisis is critical.  Similar to personal relationships, corporations should exude humility to admit mistakes quickly, directly and with sincerity.  Simply sweeping an issue under the rug will ultimately cause more resentment, uncertainty and distrust.

Recently, a concerned friend sought my advice about a relationship that was fragile and on the verge of breaking if not handled properly.  Her relationship was facing a crisis.  When encountering a crisis it is never planned and almost always unexpected.   Being taken off guard, finding oneself in the midst of a crisis, can happen (and probably has) to us all, and corporate relationships with its stakeholders, consumers and the general public, aren’t immune.

Identifying in advance issues that may arise can prevent a potential crisis.  Vehr Communications recommends the following to be included in a crisis plan.

• Identify the crisis management team
• Identify issues that could develop into crises
• Establish crisis management protocol and best practices
• Outline crisis communications channels for each audience
• Guide media outreach and interviews
• Provide a detailed contact list for offices, media and business partners

Although not an easy task, your relationship manual needs to be written.   This manual (a.k.a. crisis communication plan) helps assemble the pieces, maintain and strengthen relationships and safeguard reputations.  In my friend’s case, I was the writer of her manual. In other instances, one may ask a mentor, parent or coworker to put pen to paper.  For corporations, strategic communications firms are good choices.

Whatever your approach, bear in mind that effective, strategic communication is important across the relationship spectrum.  Owning a manual that isn’t as user friendly as hoped, filled with insufficient insight and blank pages puts your relationships and reputation at risk.  Be smart, be prepared, and always use bubble wrap.

Posted by Kelsey Clark, Account Manager (5.12.2010)
The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the views of Vehr Communications, LLC.