be prepared with crisis communication

Look For The Facts And Communicate The Truth

In today’s media environment, silence says more than you might think. In a crisis situation, many companies fail to communicate effectively, perhaps because they don’t have all the facts, they do not know how to communicate the truth, or because no matter what they say, a tragedy is still a tragedy.

We saw this demonstrated when an Amtrak train derailed while carrying 243 people. The crash left many passengers injured and several dead. Amtrak was quick to respond to the incident and Joseph Boardman, CEO of Amtrak, also issued a letter on the company’s blog saying, “Amtrak takes full responsibility and deeply apologizes for our role in this tragic event.” Boardman also said, “Our goal is to fully understand what happened and how we can prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.”

The company’s response to the accident was prompt and a Family Assistance Center for passengers and crew was quickly established in Philadelphia. However, we’re left wondering how Amtrak is working to prevent accidents like this in the future. While the CEO’s letter was heartfelt, it left us wondering what steps Amtrak was taking to improve safety and how these steps would affect passengers.

Post-crisis communication is just as important as communication during a crisis. It’s understood that Amtrak is working to reestablish rail service, but what the company must focus on is what happened, how it can be prevented and how the company can regain its customers’ trust. Without openly detailing their plan to keep riders safe, they’re leaving their audience out of the conversation.


What Is Successful Crisis Communication?

Successful crisis communication allows a company to take control of what is said and more importantly, how it is expressed. Effective communication is thoroughly developed and rehearsed to create a clear understanding between the company and its audiences.

When a crisis involves casualties, pre-written responses tell survivors and victims’ loved ones that the company is thinking of them and understands the gravity of the situation. Comments such as, “we hold all those affected in our hearts” or “On behalf of the entire Amtrak family, I offer our sincere sympathies and prayers for them and their loved ones,” as Boardman said, can mean the difference between successful communication and an irreparable disconnect between the company and those affected by the tragedy.

Amtrak’s initial communication was well done, but in order to rebuild trust, the company needs to continue communicating. In order to achieve the ultimate goal of demonstrating empathy and creating mutual understanding, crisis communications must reach beyond statements and begin rebuilding broken relationships.

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