Business can be all about acronyms: P&L, ROI, IBIDA. But the bottom line for business is, however, how circumstances affect people. So when the stock market or a plane crashes the test of a businesses’ future viability and image may very well fulcrum on management’s public statements in relation to how the crisis is reflected in the lives of the employees, customers, investors – people.
You can never go wrong when expressing sympathy, concern, even an appropriate empathy for people first and material things next.
This priority is especially true when the arbiters of the company’s future and even resurrection depend on mass consumers or politicians. Consumers identify with other people, the “every man.” Politicians are ultimately answerable to voters, the very same “every man” with whom consumers identify. Even juries want to hear first that a responsible party apologizes or cares about what happened to a victim.
Of course, any public statement has to be backed-up by an appropriate action or it will be seen a spin or, worse, an outright lie. A business manager can’t express grief for someone lost in an industrial accident and then cut off medical benefits to surviving family members. Corporate titans can’t apologize for losing stockholder’s investments and not take pay cuts themselves or ask congress for money before spending hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars on lush retreats. Mistakes can be forgiven. It is much harder to forgive hypocrisy or a long-planned crime, malice aforethought.
So, when reacting to crisis, prioritize your public statements based on what your neighbor might think and not necessarily how the numbers add up.