Crisis Communication: The Ethical Imperative for Businesses in Times of Trouble

The world is bigger than business, and even more messy.

In recent days, the eyes of the world have been focused on the Middle East, and the anyone with half a brain has borne witness to atrocity after atrocity, war crime after war crime

There’s no right time to ask this question, but we must:

How should we, a socially-conscious brand, respond during times of crisis?

The human experience has long been fraught with crisis, and they are still happening all over the world. There is a nearly 60 year long civil war in Colombia that has mainly claimed the lives of civilians. The armed conflict in Ukraine has driven away more than 4 million people, and killed more than half a million more on both sides. Civil war in Yemen has placed 80% of the nation’s population in danger. And the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting countless lives worldwide, as economies, businesses and families slowly recover.

Each new crisis is horrific, and many feel eerily similar to those that came before.

And it’s all easier to just not talk about….

There is certainly something to be said for craving safety in uncertain times. Turning a blind eye. Nobody wants bad news. And those of us lucky enough to live in a place not teetering on the edge of the abyss take solace in the notion that “it can’t happen here.”

At least for now.

In the meantime, it’s nearly impossible not to form opinions on each reported crisis. We’re curious by nature. We have questions. We seek to find someone to point the finger at. We side with the “good guys” and hope the “bad guys” get what’s coming to them.

How should your business respond?

Individual opinion, wrong or right, is something we are all entitled to. And, because individuals come together to form organizations, it’s only logical that these opinions become entwined within each of our companies.

But how, and when, should your company throw its perspective into the ring? Is doing so the right thing to do? Shouldn’t you just be focused on making money? And, if you do choose to express your sentiments pertaining to a global crisis, Is there a right time and a wrong time?

As a small business based in Dubai, we’ve built our client base somewhat organically. In a small business setting, expressing opinions on humanitarian issues can go either way. Speaking your mind could just as easily produce a groundswell of support as it could alienate loyal customers and wipe a company out entirely. Is it really worth the risk? Here’s what we think: There are times when speaking up means a hell of a lot more than your bottom line.

Once they expressed their opinions, some companies have been criticized for the side they chose, while others have received flack for just remaining silent. For many, silence is viewed as complicity. Others, still, play the waiting game so as not to voice their opinion, only to be forced to walk them back and eat crow, as they say.

Something to think about.
Still, perhaps there is no shame in wanting to take several steps back and attempt to get the clearest possible view of a crisis. It’s certainly true that no layperson has the expertise to fully grasp what is happening, and claiming to be an authority is potentially dangerous when so much so-called “news” is misinformation in disguise.

If you’re still on the fence about vocalizing your company’s support and solidarity for those on the receiving end of hardship, pain and collective misery, consider these 4 questions….

  1. Are you, or members of your staff, directly affected?

  2. If members of your organization live in affected areas, or any bordering, involved countries, your support for them and their families will not go unnoticed by people you employ. It is also likely that other members of your staff will feel the same way you do.

  3. Are you an authentic person?

  4. If your past behavior has been truthful, caring, and appreciated by your employees, then your choice to vocalize an opinion on a global humanitarian crisis will be perceived well by those in your organization.

  5. Are you speaking from your heart?

  6. If you’re choosing to have your company weigh in because you’re truly passionate about what is happening, and endeavoring to educate yourself without bias, then it will be perceived as such. Simply saying something because you feel you must will be obviously disingenuous.

  7. Who is your audience?

  8. Familiarity with your clientele will likely inform your choice to speak out. If they are largely in agreement with your choice to stand up and be heard, then they will be with you, and even encouraged to personally speak out as well.


  9. Are innocent people being murdered?

  10. If the answer is yes, then you have an international responsibility to condemn and speak out against it. War crime does not justify war crime. A logical, painful barometer is helpful here: If innocents and children are dying, then you should speak out against it.

    Governments and institutions are often wrong. They cause pain and human suffering in their quest for more land, power and wealth. They are not afraid to attempt the wholesale extermination of an entire population, and they are always looking for a remotely justifiable excuse to do so.

    Some causes are worth fighting for and, if your business can help shine a light on the plight of innocent people, then, we feel, you should do it.

    No matter if it’s happening right next door or half a world away, you have the power to give a voice to those who have been silenced.

Read more