Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Crisis Communications – Developing Effective Messages

Crisis Communications – Developing Effective Messages

Crisis communications has come a long way. Today, in a crisis scenario, organizations recognize the need to communicate their side of the story quickly by pushing out positive and supporting narratives. To do this effectively, good crisis communications practitioners ensure that the messages used address the concerns of the target audience.

However, in cases where there is a need to persuade the target audience towards a particular view (or to take a specific action), targeting concerns alone is insufficient. In this situation, messages developed must also factor the beliefs and attitudes of the target audience towards the organization.

crisis communications effective messaging

Allow me to illustrate using the on-going dispute between Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) over Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes for 38 Oxley Road. For LHY to communicate his messages, all he has to do is to target the concerns Singaporeans have about abuse of power. Singaporeans will pay attention to the message as it is something that they are concerned about, as Singapore is built upon the rule of law and that no one is above it. This was demonstrated by the significant interest both in the main stream media and the online space.

However, if LHY wants to persuade Singaporeans that LHL had abused his position and power as Prime Minister (PM) of Singapore, it is not so easy. LHL has led Singapore well as its PM and Singaporeans do not believe that LHL would abuse his position as PM. Thus, while they will “listen” to the snippets of information that LHY releases (in the form of redacted emails) alluding to LHL’s abuses of power, most Singaporeans are not persuaded. In fact, a survey conducted by the independent market research consultancy Blackbox Research showed that an overwhelming 40% did not believe LHY and wanted more proof.

In short, effective communication can be done by simply targeting target audience concerns. Persuading a target audience is not as simple as it requires the communications professional to target beliefs and attitudes. Thus, as part of crisis management planning, organizations need to shape target audience perception of the organization before a crisis happens. When a crisis happens, it is too late.


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