Writing the right statement in a crisis can be a daunting task. That statement, how it’s written and delivered, may become the defining moment of your response.
We have recently seen many organizations respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with strong, heartfelt and effective public positioning. We have also witnessed other entities who have struggled. How you craft and present the “statement” may very well determine into which of those two categories you will be in.
How do you go about preparing and delivering a “crisis ready” statement?
There are some elements that could ensure you help safeguard the “invincibility” of your brand and reputation.
The most important elements of your response right now are two-fold: ensuring resiliency in business continuity and showcasing your organization’s human side and readiness in the face of a mass-impact, ongoing situation.
A strong statement is solidly grounded in an enterprise’s values and must first address the concerns of a key audience: its own people, before it soon after extends out to its external stakeholders.
For this, there are three key imperatives:
- demonstrating empathy/compassion;
- relaying a sense of purposeful action; and
- instilling hope (versus fear or panic) through a strong sense of leadership.
This clearly follows one of the components of Dr. Vincent Covello’s message mapping principles: Compassion + Competence + Optimism, with a clear focus on empathy in the message delivery.
To really be effective, such a statement needs to be short and not feature any political or self-serving messaging. It also needs to point the way to—and showcase how it is taking action towards—a brighter horizon or future.
It’s a hard balancing act, finding the right tone. You can acknowledge the difficult situation that your people face or the tough road ahead. But total doom and gloom make for a non-inspiring message although it may grab attention for a while.
Addressing the reality in a somber tone, with meaningful words delivered with empathy is key. Also critical, is the need to balance optimism with the cold hard facts at-hand. Not stoking fears, but putting issues in perspective. Looking at risks, not from the point of view of your organization or experts, but taking into account how your audiences perceive them.
A crisis ready leader is capable of denoting honesty and transparency AND able to convey hope. Here’s a good example:
So, here’s a brief idea of how it can be done:
- We share your anxiety or grief …. we’re united by … we will do right by our people so they can keep doing their job …[SHOW THAT YOU CARE]
- We are taking these steps …. Here’s how we are facing this world crisis … [DEMONSTRATE ACTIONS]
- Our will is undeterred …. we will continue to fight together … safer, more vibrant communities …. stronger … [POINT TO VICTORY]
Yes, it might sound formulaic but formulas that work, work—and here at the Crisis Ready Institute, we are all about developing formulas that work so that your crisis ready capabilities can be more seamless and effective. When delivered by a trained crisis communications spokesperson or a strong leader, this kind of statement carries weight and can have a great impact on your stakeholders/audiences—which ultimately means your brand.
Communicating properly during trying times adds another layer of armor to your organization’s brand. Ideally, you need practice and a culture of crisis readiness to make that happen quickly. But it’s never too late to do the right thing! There are plenty of resources out there to help you get started (many of which can be found within the “COVID-19 Resources” link above).
As the COVID-19 pandemic has been illustrating, the need for people and groups to come together and mobilize—even from a social distancing distance—cannot be overstated. Even when events seem to dictate your actions, there is still a way to take a pause and inject resilience and readiness into the next phase of your response.
Wishing you strength, safety, health and wisdom through the management of these hardship times.