One of the aspects of crisis communications hardest for businesses to get their heads round is being the one to break bad news to customers.

Some businesses would prefer to front up only when necessary. They want to ride it out and hope people don’t notice a problem.

In a recent Crisis Media workshop I used the example of social media schedulers Buffer who – a few years back – were hit by crisis when their system was hacked. They didn’t shy away from letting on there was a problem.

Within an hour the CEO had emailed its database telling users the sorry news their accounts may have been compromised. He accepted full responsibility, took customers  through steps to safeguard their accounts and promised regular updates. These were delivered.

The results of such proactive communication in a crisis were clear. The support back to the company and engagement from customers who felt Buffer actually cared about them was immense.

I wonder if sentiment would have been so positive if the first a user knew of the problem was when they got spam messages? Or an angry client who had in turn been spammed alerted them?