Communicators always want to make promises they know they can keep, even when their organization is in full-blown crisis.
For example, if there has been a terrible train crash and people have died, at some point the CEO of the train operator or perhaps a politician will be asked a variation of “can you guarantee this won’t happen again.” Or perhaps the crisis is a data breach and the spokesperson could well be asked “can you ensure this never happens again?”
The temptation, of course, in both these examples is to issue a guarantee. It sounds bold and reassuring.
However, this is a question which can take spokespeople down a dangerous path, because offering this sort of guarantee is riddled with risk, as in virtually every situation it is almost impossible to make such a promise with any confidence.
We would all like to think that lessons will be learnt from crisis media management incidents, but even if improvements are made, no-one can be 100% certain that the same thing could not happen in the future.
Issuing a guarantee simply makes organizations and their spokespeople hostages to fortune, promising something that they can’t live up to.
It is a response which can tee up future embarrassment.
This question can easily feel like a no-win situation, because saying that you can’t confirm something bad won’t happen again can also create the sort of uninspiring headlines that you really don’t need when trying to manage a crisis and restore confidence in