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Eight phrases to avoid when communicating during a crisis

A crisis can showcase what a business is truly made of. In business, challenges can arise at any moment, and each and every step leaders take to tackle obstacles has a direct impact on brand perception. Communication in these situations is crucial to keeping stakeholders at all levels informed and maintaining calm in the midst of a storm.

The right communication can result in increased brand loyalty from both internal and external stakeholders, but even just one communication misstep can cause irreparable damage to a business’s reputation. To help leaders share information with care, eight Newsweek Expert Forum members each share one word or phrase businesses should avoid using when communicating during a crisis and what to say and do instead to drive forward movement.

1. ‘No Comment’

Crisis management emerged as the most important process in public relations during the 1980s. When a crisis arises within a business, saying or doing nothing or the wrong thing can erode trust and damage reputations. To maintain transparency and trust with stakeholders and the public during a crisis, businesses should avoid using the phrase “no comment,” which can seem evasive and uncooperative. – Lillian Gregory, The 4D Unicorn LLC

2. ‘Unforeseen Circumstances’

The phrase “unforeseen circumstances” can come off as evasive and suggests a lack of preparedness. In a crisis, stakeholders seek accountability and clarity. Using vague terms can erode trust and confidence in the company’s leadership. – Ian Wilding, Hangar 75

3. ‘No Immediate Danger’

In times of crisis, businesses should avoid using the phrase “no immediate danger” as it can create a false sense of security, potentially downplaying the gravity of the situation and leading stakeholders to underestimate the necessary response or preparations. During crises, being transparent and acknowledging the full scope of the issue fosters trust and preparedness. – Anna Yusim, MD, Yusim Psychiatry, Consulting & Executive Coaching

4. ‘Business as Usual’

Avoid the term “business as usual.” In a crisis situation, this phrase can erode people’s trust. It projects a lack of accountability and denial. Instead, adopt the principle of reflective transparency. This is both a psychological double play and a communication method that not only acknowledges the severity of the crisis, but also lays out steps that a business will take to resolve the matter. – Dr. Kira Graves, Kira Graves Consulting

5. ‘But’

In a crisis, using “but” comes across as making excuses and diminishes your credibility at a time when transparency and honesty are key. While you might believe this word balances your message by presenting both sides of an argument, it really gives the impression that you are ducking blame. – Gergo Vari, Lensa

6. ‘Everything Will Be All Right’

Avoid saying “Everything will be all right.” Offering this phrase gives a false sense of security. In the midst of a crisis, there are often complex layers to the problem which have yet to surface. As the scenario unfolds, companies will uncover many things, major and minute that will then negatively impact other things. These issues may unfortunately not be fixable, or at least not in the way some stakeholders expect. – Vonda Wright, L2 Defense, Inc.

7. ‘If We’

When sharing your company’s perspective on a misstep during a crisis communication, not using the phrase “if we” shows solidarity and ownership. Often, when in a scenario that requires an apology, having that out instead of clearly stating the misstep can create more distrust and possibly land as insensitive. – André Blackman, Onboard Health

8. ‘We Did Our Best’

Don’t say you did your best. When a crisis arises, it is clear that it happened because we weren’t prepared. In business, we constantly need to anticipate the worst-case scenario, and if we still get into some difficult situations, we need to own our mistakes and start focusing on the next steps to move on. – Krisztina Veres, Veres Career Consulting

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.What’s this?Content labeled as the Expert Forum is produced and managed by Newsweek Expert Forum, a fee based, invitation only membership community. The opinions expressed in this content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Newsweek or the Newsweek Expert Forum.

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