How to Communicate After Random Violence Occurs at Your Company
You’ve survived the horrible tragedy of unexpected, undeserved violence at your company, but that’s not enough. People have questions. All kinds of people want answers to questions you may not have thought through yet.
Your employees want to know about security so this won’t happen again. They also wonder if their jobs will be affected or the raise they were counting on will go toward building repairs. They may not ask for it, but witnesses to the violent act need crisis counseling.
Your leaders want to know about succession plans. What if you’re the victim next time?
Your Vistage colleagues want to know if you’re all right and when you can talk about it, what you’ve learned.
Reporters want to know when you’re open for business again, what will change, how you’re going to treat your employees, what caused the violence and what are you going to do about it?
Your customers want to know if they can expect the same level of quality and service.
Your vendors want to know if it’s safe to stop at your office or plant.
Your attorney will want to know if you want to file a lawsuit and if you’re willing to testify in a criminal case.
Depending on the severity of the violence, you may be asked some of these questions in the minutes or hours after the incident. Other questions may come up weeks or months later. Crisis communications experts can help you with a timeline and the correct messages to send.
But some abiding principles and messages will get you through the toughest of scenarios. It’s not too soon to create a crisis communications plan and practice these responses.
- Decide now that you will always take the right step for your business and staff, and especially the victims’ families.
Your attorney will want you to stay away from specific promises that you might not be able to keep, but it is always safe to say, “First, our thoughts are on the victims we worked with for many years. Our hearts go out to their families.”
Then say, “It’s too soon to know exact details, but we will be open for business tomorrow, we will continue to provide jobs and we will continue to offer our services. But we are already looking into how this could’ve happened. We are going to take every measure to make sure it never happens again.”
- Remember that it is fine to say, “I don’t know.”
Although no one expects you to have all the answers, they will still ask the questions.
- Realize your internal messages are as important as the ones you give to the public.
Your first audience is made up of your employees. Their friends and neighbors are going to be asking them how it’s going. The news media will try to reach them. They will post on Facebook and tweet on Twitter. It will be hard to contain their reaction if they’re scared or anxious. Reassure them with frequent updates about their job status and your safety plans. If any of their co-workers are hospitalized or recovering at home, give them opportunities to send cards and well wishes.
Everyone likes to think random violence won’t happen at their company. But if you have a crisis recovery plan and never have to use it, be grateful. When violence does occur, you will be glad you prepared.
Have you experienced a random act of violence and what messages have you shared? You can leave your comments below.