When things are falling apart, clear crisis communication can make customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders feel much better. During a crisis, such as a pandemic, natural disaster, civil unrest or financial depression, people are overwhelmed. The situation itself is difficult to deal with; they may also be inundated with information, not all of it true. Effective crisis communication can make all the difference in the literal and underlying messages they receive from your company.
To communicate effectively, use short, impactful words. People will understand you and will view you as a decisive, trustworthy leader. Don’t use jargon or too many multi-syllable words in crisis communication. Get to the point quickly.
As an example, during the coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo sent this tweet, “Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Save Lives.” The great communicator Winston Churchill, was also a fan of brevity. In fact, he wrote a memo to members of Parliament urging them to be brief when communicating.
The most efficient way to explain a new situation, which is usually the case in crisis communication, is to use an analogy to something your audience already understands. For example, say you have an essential business that is still operating during the pandemic and you want to explain how your employees are wearing protective gear. Instead of talking about N95 masks and PPE, say that each employee is suited up in full protective gear, just as firefighters wear specially designed clothing and equipment to protect them.
Tell a Story
We are hardwired to listen to and appreciate stories. Stories are a highly effective way to communicate, not just information but also feelings and lessons.
In Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, he immediately talking about the founding of the country. At first, this subject seems off-topic for the times. However, he wanted to remind people of North and South that they had a shared origin and were and should remain one country.
If your company has helped people (employees, customers or community members) during crisis, tell the story with names and details. It will get across your message better than just telling people you care.
Times of crisis do not lend themselves to dense language, in writing or spoken communication. This includes legalese, flowery or technical jargon. Make sure you communicate with stakeholders regularly, but pare back to the essentials in your communication. Here are some additional tips from Purdue University.
Talk to Pro Creative about find out how we can help you improve your crisis communication.