The Empathy Message: Say it Like You Mean it

With all the practices and pitfalls of communicating during crisis, few things are more fundamentally important to effective communication than expressing sincere empathy to those affected. Yet somehow genuine expressions of empathy during crisis and critical incidents are rare. Don’t get me wrong, I see and hear no shortage of canned, cliché, box-checking statements but […]

Talking Points are a Guide, Not a Script

A public information officer colleague returned from a recent disaster incident deployment and gave me the lowdown on how the job went. Turned out it could’ve been better! A particular low point for my friend came when he was demobilizing and had a short exit interview/debrief with the incident commander, focusing on his team’s contributions. […]

The Better Way to Give Affected Masses Crisis Info

Here’s today’s public service announcement from me to you: if you have bad news or risk information to communicate to people affected by crisis, don’t ever (ever, ever, EVER) choose to hold a town hall meeting to do so. Some people look at me like I’m crazy when I say this – even veteran communicators – so […]

Communicating When People Feel Threatened

I’ve been called on to communicate with people affected by oil spills, natural disasters and other critical incidents. What makes communicating to people affected by these sorts of events challenging is that they feel personally threatened by circumstances outside their control and by people they may not trust. This creates mental noise, which means information […]

Virtuous Crisis Communications

Aristotle’s model of virtue ethics provides clear guidance on how professionals can best communicate with stakeholders during an emergency or disaster. Aristotle believed that the key to life was happiness, and that it was achieved by living virtuously – “all things in moderation,” basically, because in his treatise on the subject every virtue has TWO vices, […]