Founded in 1972, Garanimals is a clothing line for children. At its outset, Garanimals offered a mix-and-match way of combining kids' shirts and pants just by matching the tags.
Garanimals came to mind after spotting a recent essay that contained recommendations for crafting a PR crisis response statement. It suggested mixing and matching phrases and words from a pre-set matrix. It was a Garanimals approach to writing–and it's terrible advice.
By far the most important element of a good crisis response statement is authenticity. Encouraging communicators to follow a pick one from column A, one from column B, one from column C approach is not only poor PR practice, it's irresponsible.
A thoughtful, meaningful response during a PR crisis requires a deft touch, relevant experience and a clear understanding of critical audiences.
It’s a strategy borne out of years of communication knowledge and a swift, thoughtful and thorough analysis of the crisis at hand. There simply is no one-size-fits-all way to do this.
A strong, written crisis message is heartfelt and genuine. It doesn’t come from a catalog of words and phrases.
Instead, it comes from the ability to distill information quickly, to determine who audiences for the message are, to consider the facts of the situation and how they could influence the response.
In addition the crisis pro must anticipate what's ahead, such as litigation or regulatory action, and how the crisis might evolve. And only then can a communicator make smart decisions about crafting the right response.
As a replacement for a pre-set, one-size-fits-all matrix of words and phrases, consider these pieces of advice for developing a crisis communication response that is consistent with your values, brand and stakeholder engagement.
- Use your voice to be empathetic and authentic. Choose words that reflect your core values. Demonstrate sympathy and empathy for crisis victims. Communicate in a way that audiences will recognize as being true to your organization.
- Be transparent, but don’t speculate or overshare. In a crisis response, less is often more, but hiding facts or withholding critical information can damage trust. Say what you have to say in the moment and commit to sharing more as it becomes available.
- Commit to resolution and action. Most audiences understand that crises can happen. The measure of an organization’s response is whether the crisis is properly addressed and actions are taken to prevent a recurrence.
Meaningful and deliberate
Assumed in these recommendations is that it is most important to be meaningful and deliberate in your communication. Share information in a way that aligns with your organization’s purpose and guiding principles. Moreover, it should reflect how you communicate on other issues. Rely on best practices.
Audiences are savvy. They will recognize a canned response when they see one. (Recall how the “thoughts and prayers” phrase from politicians angers constituents.)
When good communication strategy is abandoned in favor of a quick-fix, pre-set language approach, short- and long-term implications will be negative and lasting.
Garanimals may be a fine choice for coordinating children’s clothing, but it has no business as a solution for crafting an authentic crisis response.
Hinda Mitchell is president of Inspire PR Group