Effective crisis communication is about saying the right messages to the right people at the right time.
It is about seizing the initiative and taking control of the narrative, explaining what has gone wrong, how you feel about it and, crucially, what you are doing to make things better.
For PR practitioners, this is easier said than done, considering that our role is always advisory. Many times, we end up playing the guitar to clients with muffed ears. We live in an era where media is constantly evolving; an era where conventional media is live and livid to digital migration. You no longer need masts and extraordinary infrastructure to own and run a Television or Radio channel. While it took decades to have KBC, KTN, NTV and Citizen TV respectively, it has taken months to have Njata, Lolwe, 3stones, Utugi and the soon to be launched Inooro TV.
While media remains one of the most heterogeneous forms of communication during a crisis, sometimes, it becomes too costly to hit the media waves and pages before you engage your stakeholders through conventional crisis communication channels such as phone calls, meetings or town halls that are able to convey empathy, concern and two-way communication, which media cannot- not even Facebook and Twitter.
Recently, embattled Pastor Ng’ang’a of Neno Evangelism Centre took to the media to redeem his brand equity after he was arrested in connection with a fatal car crash whose case files have been shuffled like bingo cards between the Executive and the Judiciary. Well, the case is currently in court but from a communications perspective, the ‘man of God’ opted to bungee jump with a sisal rope. You do not turn up for a live media interview without a tailored message when dealing with a crisis. That is akin to committing suicide with a wet sisal rope, you won’t just die, but you will also endure the sisal induced skin aches before your untimely demise.
Nonetheless, crises by their very nature, however, are unique, complex and fast-moving. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach or communications playbook for how to respond. Each crisis will require a communication strategy tailored to the particular incident or issue, and a bespoke tactical plan for how to engage with key audiences. For this case, it appears the cart was placed before the horse, the legal team was most likely not involved or his communications team, the church elder ended up throwing salvos at non-existent devils.
As we wait for the judge’s call on this case, we are keen to see if this will erode or build the brand equity of the religious leader. After all, religion remains the opium of the masses.