Apologize or Advocate: Choices for Crafting Statements During Pandemic

Joshua J. Smith, Assistant Professor, Robertson School of Media and Culture, VCU

As stores and businesses suspended operations in the wake of the pandemic, many sent customers updates of new business hours, closures, delays and service suspensions.

There’s an important question every organization should ask at the start of a crisis: What do we tell our customers, audience and stakeholders?

But at the heart of that quest lies a deeper question: How should we tell them?

Let’s say there are three stages of a crisis: pre-crisis, crisis and post-crisis. Others break down the middle stage into several additional steps.
All Crisis Plans Are The Same
Some crisis plans are cyclical, others are flat and some never end. If you look back at crisis communication case studies over the years, you’ll notice a consistency. Every communication plan demonstrates an organization trying to come out of a crisis with as little damage as possible. The goal is always the same: getting to post-crisis as soon as possible.

In some instances, businesses come out better off than when they went into a crisis. An example is the famous Tylenol crisis in 1982.


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