Communicating in crisis: empathy, clarity and purpose

A crisis can be a great opportunity to grow.

6 min read

The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.

Communicating in crisis: empathy, clarity and purpose
Communicating in crisis: empathy, clarity and purpose

Just in case you have been living under a stone for the last few days, I tell you that the world is currently facing a global pandemic due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 , a resistant and highly contagious strain that has already gained – unfortunately – thousands of lives around the world.

All companies, businesses and organizations face the challenge of communicating with their team and their clients the measures to be taken. It is a communication crisis that must be addressed with a cool head.

All crises have the same typology: they come quickly and without warning ; they cause doubt, confusion or fear and involve changes in behavior patterns. People with fear and confusion can do absurd things (like going out to buy seventy boxes of toilet paper); impulsive (such as sharing false information); or even abusive, immoral or illegal (like buying seventy boxes of paper, to later resell them with profit). Your work as a leader in your organization has three steps: acquire correct information; make prudent decisions and communicate with clarity and empathy.

Here are some ideas so that the crisis does not get out of your hands.

1. They are not races. Quiet.

You are not the morning newscast. The world does not depend on your Facebook wall or your fast hand on WhatsApp to survive; so don't spend the whole day looking for things to retweet or share like a tiger is chasing you.

The information for your collaborators and clients should be delivered as soon as possible, but not before . Maybe calls or questions are pouring in on you; But you won't do anyone any good if you share incomplete, false, or confusing information.

Stop two minutes. What information is really up to you? What can you say to your clients and collaborators that they do not already receive on the other hand? Think about any doubts they may have (Are we going to work tomorrow? Are we going to cancel the trip? Are we going to change the schedule?) And prepare a simple, complete and no-obligation statement.

2. Never lose empathy

Remember that being serious is not the same as being a robot. Sometimes crisis reports can seem like they were written by a heartless android; or by an angry attorney. This specific crisis (the coronavirus) is not your fault, and it is not you who is under the scrutiny, so you can write with positive spirit while still being responsible.

Remember that, like everything in communication, the most important thing is to establish a relationship of trust, and maintain it . Your customers and employees need to know that you are more interested in their health than your earnings; that people are always more important than business.

Communicating with leadership involves presenting a plan and purpose in a motivating and clear way. It is in crises that leaders demonstrate themselves. Don't lose yourself in the storm.

3. Maintain a constant flow

In times of crisis, emptiness causes dread. Try to maintain a constant flow of information, with new decisions that may affect your customers or employees; with advances in your business contingency plans and with information of general interest that may be useful to them.

Don't just repeat or share; Allow your communication team to design and implement awareness and information campaigns that are in line with the style, image and ethos of your own company.

4. Don't trivialize; do not exaggerate

There are moments for memes and jokes; and there are times for sensitive information. During crises, just because you communicate positively doesn't mean you should minimize the problem; play with the data or make jokes in bad taste.

On the opposite side, be careful to exaggerate or cause panic! There are already enough people screaming on the street that the world is going to end. Keep a cool head, even on your personal networks , and share only things that can inspire, encourage, inform or prevent; that they are true and that they are in line with the style of your company.

By last; This is not the time to bring up your political views or bring water to your mill. It may seem attractive to buy goods to make a deal or promote your dislike for the politician on duty; but unless you are an expert in the field or a qualified communicator, please reread point 1.

5. Take advantage to grow

If the time comes to close your doors or send people home; If you continue to pay the payroll, remember that these days are not vacation days , but work from home. Of course, the situation demands flexibility, but it can also help you design home-office systems , training, planning, and alternative jobs.

Can you design a new digital marketing system? Can you draw up a training schedule; of readings or online meetings? Can you spend time researching and developing new products? Well invested, this time can become a great opportunity.

The way to communicate this must be purposeful, clear and inspiring. People who, during the crisis, have a purpose, respond in a very positive and even heroic way. Be calm yourself; ask for their ideas and communicate yours.

No one wants a crisis to come. Many things will surely be lost; But if you manage to communicate proactively, empathetically and with purpose, with a good team you can emerge stronger on the other side of the storm.

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