All of those connected with the race knew in their hearts it would be wrong to hold the race. And so did Mayor Bloomberg. Ultimately the race was cancelled on Friday, Nov. 2 with only two days to spare.
In his statement, he said: “While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division. … We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel.” With so many people in despair, homeless, without electricity, food and water or shelter, it was not right to precious resources to run a sporting event.
And there you have it – the essence of crisis communications – saying and doing the right thing. No matter what crisis a business or its leaders are faced with – death, a mistake, theft, scandal, natural disaster – the simplest way to decide how to communicate about it is to focus on humanity and humility and to ask a few key questions:
- Is it a matter of life and death? With speed, communicate to as many as possible to ensure their safety, to ensure they know what to do and where to go for help. Social media – Twitter in particular – is excellent for this purpose.
- What is the truth? Hiding the truth will hurt your business. It’s better to humbly admit a mistake has been made and then offer to help or assist anyone who has been harmed. A customer letter or even a letter combined with a video clip of the CEO is great for this purpose.
- Apologize or empathize? Always put yourself in the shoes of those who have suffered harm and tell them you are sorry. Nothing is more impactful to someone who has suffered harm than the three simple words, “I am sorry”.
- Move on? Absolutely move on and point to the future. Mistakes and horrible things happen but leaders with humility and vision will be given a chance to prove themselves again.