In past articles I’ve suggested that we, as communications and business people, should question our assumptions rather than blindly building programs and campaigns based on common knowledge or our gut feel.
Participants in all studies reacted more positively when the company involved in the crisis gave an engaged response. When the company involved in the sexual harassment case firmly stated that inappropriate behavior was not tolerated and that allegations would be taken seriously, participants thought better of the company, drank more of their water, and said it tasted better than when the company gave a defensive or “no comment” response. In the harmful food additive case, the results were strikingly similar. ….
…. Executives believe a “no comment” statement will inspire the public to reserve judgment until all the facts are made public, Diermeier thinks. …. But “the moment you say something as a company, the level of trust you have is much lower than if you say it as an individual,” he adds. “Companies are really not trusted a lot.” ….
… Many legal departments will advise executives to stick with “no comment” to limit their company’s liability. But by giving such a statement, executives may lose far more in brand value than they could gain in minimizing legal risks, Diermeier says.
“There is a clear sense that a crisis strategy that’s engaged and reaching out works better than one that is self-justifying,” Diermeier says. “And most important is that saying nothing, being quiet in these cases has basically the same effect as if you are confrontational.”
Now, PR and other communications professionals have some real data to present to their CEOs when the lawyers are saying to keep mum. And, in this case, our assumptions, based in large part on a body of professional experience, appear to have been right.