If your company or organization has just hit a major crisis, whether it’s a disaster affecting your company’s brand image, an issue with quality control, or something else entirely. Regardless, the opposition has already pounced and has made the first major communication.
What can you do? Rather than just focus on your own crisis response, your crisis communication team should also look into controlling the opposition’s message. How? Let’s break it down in more detail.
The Art of Controlling the Opposition’s Message
The “opposition” in any crisis situation is the team acting opposite to your company’s interests, full-stop. For example, this could be the news media, a competing company, an employee spreading rumors about your organization, or someone else entirely.
The point is the same: if the opposition starts sending out messages, they can irreversibly damage your brand’s own crisis communication attempts. Therefore, you need to control the opposition’s message as much as you can.
Why Is Message Control Important?
There are two sides to every story: yours and the oppositions. But if your enemy keeps talking unhindered, they could derail the carefully crafted communication response that your management team has created, leading your company to suffer worse under a crisis situation.
By getting control of the other side’s message, you control the full narrative surrounding any crisis event. During a company crisis, controlling the narrative is arguably just as important as resolving whatever issue caused the crisis in the first place.
How to Control Your Oppositions Message
There are several ways in which your crisis communication team can challenge and eventually control the opposition’s message and its effect on the greater crisis narrative. Follow these steps and control will come naturally.
- Answer questions with more questions
Answer questions with more questions. The public and most spectators to any crisis event have a very short-term memory. They typically only remember the questions and responses that were last asked in an ongoing conversation. Therefore, if your opposition asks you a penetrating question about your crisis response, your team can shoot a question back and pivot the attention of the moment back onto them.
- Make controlled but firm statements, and frequently
In general, the side in a crisis event that speaks the most “wins”. If you make controlled statements that align with your greater crisis response policy, the opposition has to respond to your statements and react to the story you decide to present to the public. Every moment they spend doing this is less time they spend reworking the narrative for their own interests
- Lead with your core message, and NEVER DEVIATE
Consistency also captures public trust and can make your crisis communications seem more honest and correct, especially when you are speaking in front of a public audience. Your opposition has to respond to your core message over and over, weakening their position by proxy.
Ultimately, it’s crucial that you understand how to control not just your own crisis communications but also those of an opponent or partisan organization. In many ways, controlling the opposition’s message(s) reinforces your own story to the press, stakeholders, or target consumers. Harness the power of argument and your opponent’s questions or accusations can work for you rather than against you.