English and German are closely related, which is why there are a lot of words that look and sound alike in both languages and mean the same thing: “singen“ and “to sing“, “gut“ and “good“, “Haus“ and “house“. Sometimes, however, appearances can be deceptive. Here are some “false friends”, words that look similar in both languages, but mean (very) different things.
Four German-English habits that may confuse you. Of course you don’t mean you can English. You know you speak English, naturally. And yes, the title question is contrived, but it still comes close to what some Germans will readily say in English – or what they think is English. This five-part series will help you decode Denglisch, that strange variation of English as spoken by many Germans. Your chances of encountering Denglisch are rising day by day. Major German companies have had activities outside Germany for decades, but now, more and more small-to-medium firms (Germany’s famous Mittelstand) are moving overseas and opening factories across the world. So who knows, you might soon become an employee of a supplier of a German company. Better bone up on the language, then.
Crisis can expose defects. When a storm breaks out, it can turn up all sorts of things that until then had been out sight. When crisis hits, the communications department usually will have its hands full. Though this may not seem the time to worry about image defects, a crisis is actually as good a moment as any to take care of them. After all, if the world is watching you, at least it will tend to listen more closely to what you have to say. In a crisis, the communications department needs to keep an eye on the way it would want the public to see the company. Was it being successful lately? Was it successful merely in terms of sales and profits? Where was it creating value for the community? And what are its prospects for the years ahead? Is it possible the crisis actually resulted from the company going through a change, and a change that might make it more beneficial for society?
Journalists love crises. Some may think this says something about the character of these folks, and it is true that some journalists are cynics. But there are other reasons that make corporate crises natural subjects for the media.
First, there is emotionality. Corporate crises generate excitement, even if it is largely negative, and excitement easily turns viral, meaning exciting tends to spread fast. Because today’s mass media are turning ever shallower, they tend to value gossip higher than cool-headed analysis, and so they go for subjects that generate buzz.
In our five-part series, today’s installment is about communications. The crisis has arrived, and the public is turning to our company. What should we say? What do the people expect to hear? The first thing to tell the public is: we’re sorry. We’re sorry we messed up, and if we didn’t mess up, we’re sorry that it looked that way. We also understand that the public wants to know what we are doing. We take this seriously. What this is about is empathy. It’s the Greek word for feeling with the other person. Public opinion today tends to be biased against big corporations. Whether this is warranted or not is beside the point, there’s no arguing with reality. So, in a crisis, it’s a good idea to try to ease the pressure and to calm public excitement.
Being prepared is everything, and this is also true of companies in a crisis, which is why crisis communications begins long before an actual crisis. A company needs to systematically monitor public sentiment to detect a nascent crisis. So monitoring is the first thing in crisis communications. But what to monitor? Facebook? Twitter? Blogs? Forums? If so, which ones? And who should be doing it? And how do we record whatever we monitor? Who is to have access to the findings? A company needs to answer this sort of questions, and the way to do this is to compile a social media governance, that is to say guidelines laying down how staff should work with media such as Facebook and Twitter.