When the news is bad – evasion just makes it worse

We all know clear communication is important. But in times of trouble it’s critical. When a business, a government or a country is in crisis, rule number one must be to keep everyone informed. There is nothing worse than not knowing.

At the time of writing, in Japan, people are suffering from a triple whammy of tragedy… an earthquake followed by a tsunami followed by explosions in a nuclear reactor.

It couldn’t get much worse. But it is – because there are good reasons to believe the government and especially the Tokyo Electric Power Company have been holding back information.

The  two most common reasons for withholding information are 1) not to cause a panic and 2) to protect self interest.

Holding back information at times of crisis doesn’t help anyone. For countries and corporations, it inevitably means a lot of back-tracking and explaining when the crisis is over. It means a loss of trust.

For people who’ve lost loved ones, homes and possessions, it’s adding more tension to a situation already more stressful than many of us can imagine. And people won’t forget they were kept in the dark in their time of need.

The more information you give – honestly and openly, even if it’s only to say you don’t know – the more trust you gain.

The key to power in the age of information is not to withhold information but to give it freely and honestly. It’s the only way to build lasting trust and honest relationships.

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