During a crisis, how much of the message can you control? This question comes up because of this quote:
“Toll free numbers are not enough–people don’t want to talk at you. They need a reliable way to get hold of you, and if you know how to effectively use blogs and websites, you’ll control 100 percent of the message.”
–Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management of Los Angeles, quoted in Diversity Woman magazine, July/August 2008, page 25.
I agree with his first thought, greater interactivity. I choked on the last clause. Control 100 percent? In a firestorm?
So I put this on twitter, “‘If you know how to effectively use blogsand websites, you’ll control 100% of the message.’ Jonathan Bernstein,Bernstein Crisis Mgmt. Rly?” (Remember, there’s a 140 character limit on Twitter.)
Vicky H., @eeUS, a blogger on parenting and technology, replied, “100% is a lot of percent. Why not 99.99% I always say.” She went on to point out, “Obviously he does not have kids. There is no 100%.”
Chris Webb, @chriswebb, Associate Publisher at John Wiley and Sons EMEA (UK) and author of CKWebb.com, responded, “You only ever control one half of the conversation.”
Grant Griffiths, @GrantGriffiths, Owner of G2 Web Media, made two excellent comments. “Not sure you want to control 100% of the message if you are using a blog for marketing. Comments should also control it some.” And, “If you are controlling 100% how does that encourage the interaction and conversation so valuable of a benefit of blogging?”
By saying you can control 100 percent of the message, Bernstein has at the very least mis-stated his case. Even in crisis communication, you want to permit interactivity. You can control what you put out. You can influence what others might say, especially in a crisis. What others are saying can be the crisis. But you cannot control 100% of the message by understanding blogs and websites.
In Bernstein’s defense, his website includes quite a bit about working effectively through such a crisis, and I didn’t find any more occurrences of the claim of 100% control. So he may have spoken before he thought, or misspoken, or even been misquoted. But that’s kind of bad for a crisis management consultant and trainer, isn’t it?
How can a small business, especially in a small town, best respond to a crisis of communication? What’s the best way to respond when you have a firestorm of gossip, or a disaster hits your business, or someone is injured in your business?
Share your thoughts, and we’ll do a follow up article with all the best ideas.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.