6Honesty: Communication With Honesty, Frankness, and Openness

One of the most important best practices of effective crisis communication is to be honest and open. Honesty is usually described as a fundamental ethical standard for communicators. Honesty means telling the truth to the best of your ability as well as committing to finding the truth. Openness suggests a high level of transparency and means information is shared freely and in a way that is understandable to stakeholders. Openness also means that leaders and spokespersons are accessible to their stakeholders and communicate with them. In practice, honesty and openness work together and are very closely associated. Effective crisis communicators are honest and open in their public communications.

As noted earlier, honesty is necessary to build the credibility of both crisis communicators and crisis messages. Being honest and open about risks helps people know what to do when a crisis hits. In addition, if information about a crisis is not shared openly by the organization engaged in the crisis, publics will obtain information from other sources (Spence & Lachlan, 2016). These alternative sources may be hostile and sometimes their messages are inaccurate—this is another way the organization can lose its ability to manage the crisis message(s) successfully. If an organization wishes to have its side of the story told during a crisis, it must be open. In addition, honesty is just the right way to approach our ethical ...

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