Empathy in a crisis

When your brand is thrown into a crisis situation, it is expected your customers are going to be irritated, upset and angry. They will feel aggrieved about the situation, whether it is your fault or not.

Therefore the social communications you publish on your channels and how you respond to customer queries during the crisis must convey the right level of empathy.

Showing empathy in a crisis means putting yourself in someone’s shoes and appreciating and understanding how a person is feeling. The communications you write have to appear genuine, authentic and human. Getting that human touch is critical during a crisis, as victims of the crisis will want to hear from other human beings, not a corporate sounding faceless entity.

The majority of brands respond with the following sentence: “We are sorry to hear you feel that way.” But are you really sorry or is this something you are paying lip service to? It’s not a case of adding superlative adjectives into your apology, such as “we are really sorry” or “genuinely sorry”; it is using the right language that conveys genuine empathy with your audience.

One major piece of advice is o not to hide behind jargon, acronyms and legal speak.

Whenever reviewing holding responses or press statements,  ‘socialise’ them. This is taking the same meaning of the sentence and making sure it is broken down into easily digestible bite-sized chunks that are appropriate on social. This isn’t about dumbing down the message. It is making sure the message looks as though it has been written by a human that genuinely cares about how its customers are feeling and is doing something to rectify the situation.

Being crisis prepared is key to helping to communicating during a crisis. You can run crisis simulations to test how your messages will resonate with your audience. Role play out the scenario and use your holding responses to see what reaction you would get from the general public. Or read out your social post to a colleague, asking them to pretend they are a ‘victim’  and see how they perceive your message.

Crisis Communication rule 101 is to acknowledge the situation and say how as a company you are dealing with it, and what steps you are putting in place to prevent it happening again. However a reasonable and genuine brand will want to take this further and express regret and devastation and be entirely open and transparent in communications, by being empathetic and compassionate in every response.

By communicating in the right tone with the right information at the right time, you will build a the base from which  to control the crisis and, it’s more likely your customers will support you when the recovery begins.

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