Navigating the rapids: Pertinent lessons on effective crisis communication from the Finance Bill debacle.

  • 8 Jul 2024
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Brian Otieno


The government’s communication surrounding the Finance Bill, 2024, presents a cautionary tale. Mixed messages, delayed responses, and a lack of transparency fueled public anxiety and contributed to the protests.

Critics pointed out the lack of clear explanations regarding the potential impact of the Bill on various sectors and income brackets. Additionally, the delayed public outreach and town hall meetings further eroded trust. While the government eventually addressed some public concerns, the initial communication missteps provided fertile ground for misinformation and dissent.

The subsequent protests surrounding the Bill serve as a stark reminder of the critical role crisis communication plays in mitigating public perception and maintaining stakeholder trust. In the face of a crisis, clear, factual messaging becomes paramount and carefully calibrated to address the concerns of all involved parties.

Defining a crisis: When communication becomes crucial

A crisis, according to Erica Public Relations founder Erica Merritt, is “an event that has the potential to harm an organisation’s reputation, revenues or relationships with stakeholders.” It encompasses a wide range of situations, from product recalls and data breaches to public safety concerns and legislative controversies, like the one surrounding the Finance Bill, 2024.

During a crisis, the flow of information becomes a battlefield. Rumours and misinformation can spread rapidly, eroding trust and escalating anxieties. Effective crisis communication becomes the weapon of choice, enabling organisations to take control of the narrative, address concerns transparently, and ultimately mitigate the damage.

The essence of crisis communication: Shaping and building trust through transparency

At its core, crisis communication is about fostering trust. It involves a proactive and transparent approach to disseminating information. Key stakeholders, including the public, employees, and investors, need to be kept informed about the situation’s developments, the organisation’s response, and its commitment to resolving the crisis. This necessitates clear, concise, and consistent messaging across all communication channels.

The successful implementation of policies does not entirely lie in how meticulous and adept the proposals are but also in how the recipients perceive them. An iota of trust deficit in such a set of circumstances, exacerbated by disjointed or dismissive responses from policymakers, is undoubtedly counterproductive.

A guide for corporates: Dos and don’ts in crisis communication

For corporates, facing a crisis remains inevitable in one way or the other. They not only play out in the form of external factors but also internal ones. It is in this regard that a well-defined communication plan remains invaluable.

Below is a breakdown of key dos and don’ts to navigate turbulent waters:

Dos Don’ts
Prepare in Advance

Develop a crisis communication plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols for various scenarios.

Remain Silent

Silence is deafening in a crisis. Absence of communication creates a vacuum for misinformation to fill.

Act Swiftly

Don’t delay communication. Acknowledge the crisis promptly and express empathy for those affected.

Be Dismissive or Evasive

Downplaying the seriousness of the crisis or dodging questions fuels public anger and distrust.

Be Transparent

Share truthful and accurate information, even if it’s negative. Speculation and silence breed distrust.

Spread Misinformation

Stick to facts and verifiable information. Avoid making unsubstantiated claims.

Communicate Authentically

A genuine and human voice fosters trust. Be clear, concise, and avoid jargon.

Point Fingers

Focus on solutions, not blame. Blaming others distracts from resolving the crisis.

Embrace Multiple Channels

Utilise a variety of communication channels, such as press releases, social media updates, employee town halls, and media briefings, to reach all stakeholders.

Be Inconsistent

Ensure all communication, regardless of channel, delivers a consistent message.


Demonstrate Accountability

Take ownership of the situation and outline steps being taken to address the crisis.

Show Empathy

Acknowledge the concerns and anxieties of stakeholders and express a commitment to finding solutions.

Conclusion: Effective crisis communication as a lifeline in turbulent times

The protests following the controversial Finance Bill, 2024, underscore the importance of proactive crisis communication strategies. By anticipating potential public concerns and developing clear, transparent messaging, organisations can mitigate the impact of unforeseen events.

Investing in pre-crisis communication planning ensures a swift and measured response when a crisis hits. Regularly reviewing and updating the communication plan is crucial to adapt to evolving threats and communication landscapes.

Suffice to say, crisis communication is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. In today’s hyper-connected world, information travels at breakneck speed. Effective crisis communication empowers organisations to navigate turbulent times, minimise reputational damage, and maintain stakeholder trust.

By embracing transparency, accountability, and empathy, organisations can weather even the fiercest storms and emerge stronger. The lessons learned from the debacle around the Finance Bill, 2024, serve as a valuable reminder for corporates to prioritise crisis preparedness and communication – a lifeline in times of need.