When crises strike, our first instinct as communicators is often to scramble together a coherent statement.
Ever heard the maxim, “Say it first, and say it fast”? Well-intentioned as that may be, a rapid-fire response mindset opens up a world of pitfalls…
What if what feels like a crisis to you isn’t really a crisis to everyone else? How do you ensure your response is proportionate to the matter at hand?
What if responding in kind—or in a poorly thought-out way—actually elevates the crisis to greater public consciousness than otherwise would have been the case?
Worst of all, what if your hasty attempt to “just get something out there” is incomplete (because you don’t have all the information), incorrect (because your assumptions are faulty), or insensitive (because you haven’t thought it through carefully)?
the key principle in considering a proper response isn’t simply what to say; it’s what to do.
Every leader knows that time is of the essence in effectively responding to crises. But, the key principle in considering a proper response isn’t simply what to say; it’s what to do.
Our crisis communications war room talk shouldn’t primarily center around what words might deflect the issue, but how to address the issue with action. People don’t want platitudes; they want to know that you’ve grappled with the problem and that some tangible measures are being taken. And if that’s premature, they want to know what steps you’re taking to figure out what ultimate measures will rectify the crisis in the short and long terms.
One reason it’s helpful to focus on actions instead of words is that an active response requires more clarity about what actually is happening. In crisis situations, wisdom and information are directly proportional—the more info you have, the better decisions you can make and the more options you have to choose from.
it’s the substance—as much as the style—of what is communicated that ultimately matters.
When all the available facts are accounted for, smart communicators can temper their public pronouncements accordingly: focusing on meaningful actions taken (or to take) instead of “just words” that betray little evidence of self-reflection or proactive leadership.
We should be reminded that, whether your crisis is related to a global pandemic or an organizational failure, it’s the substance—as much as the style—of what is communicated that ultimately matters to all those affected.
Just as erroneous is the faulty assumption that any reply, especially if it’s speedy, can snuff out a fire that’s only beginning to catch wind.