It is never a good idea in a crisis for people to hear conflicting statements about the situation. But this is what can happen when there are multiple sources of information in the crisis and their messages are not synchronized.
One example is the statements that were made this week by Pfizer and U.S. government officials about a recall of the pharmaceutical company’s Covid vaccine.
Here’s how it went:
- On Thursday, Pfizer said its vaccine may require a booster and the company will seek emergency clearance for it.
- After Pfizer’s announcement, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said in a joint statement that “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster for the. moment”.
- Yesterday, The Hill reported that Anthony Fauci said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called him to apologize for not warning senior health officials before the company announced it would seek authorization for a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that those who heard of Pfizer’s announcement first also heard of the government statement or the CEO’s apology.
There have been other communication issues throughout the pandemic, including public statements made by then-President Donald Trump and his health care advisers on the cause, nature, duration and management of the crisis.
Advice to business leaders
When you communicate about a crisis:
- Depending on the nature of the crisis, such as a public health emergency, defer to the government or other public officials who should be responsible for managing and communicating about the crisis.
- Do not ask more than one person to speak on behalf of the business or organization.
- Carefully review and think about the impact of all statements on the crisis before sharing them with the media and the public.
- By controlling the message, you can also control when it plays, how it plays, and who is likely to hear it.
- Don’t say or do anything that surprises other people or organizations that play a role in managing and responding to the crisis. It is always better that they hear your news first rather than find out later from others.