Accuracy and Consistency
Accuracy and consistency in messages cast crisis communicators in a competent light. Consistency shows cohesion in an organization or among several organizations; this helps confused and anxious audiences orient themselves and trust the information (Seeger, 2006, p. 10). To get accurate information, it is important to “validate sources, choose subject-area experts, and develop relationships with stakeholders at all levels” (Seeger, 2006, p. 10). Not only does collaboration produce a more accurate message, it creates a well-informed, consistent message audiences can rely on. Two crises in particular—the fen-phen drug case (1997) and Hurricane Katrina (2005)—highlight the necessity for consistent and accurate information.
Fen-phen: Organizational Collaboration in Crisis Communication
The fen-phen incident illustrates good practice of accuracy and consistency. In 1997 the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that the weight-loss drug called fen-phen was actually causing severe heart problems in patients, thus sparking a crisis among the thousands of concerned patients taking the drug (Streifel et al., 2006, pp. 389-90).
Collaboration: A Consistent Message in a Crisis
Streifel et al. (2006) discuss the importance of consistent and credible messages as they analyze the importance of significant choice, a term referring to how people need thorough and precise information to decide what to do (p. 391). To ensure patients made informed decisions, the organizations responsible for the report—MeritCare and the Mayo Clinic—worked together to provide both accurate and consistent messages to the public. They illustrate the collaboration between organizations that Seeger (2006) emphasizes in his “Best Practices in Crisis Communication” (p. 10). As a result, the public got a clear message of appropriate actions to take.