COVID 19 Crisis Communications Update: March 17, 2020

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

In crisis communication, the burden is shared between your leadership team and your communications team, to give clear directives to your employees, your customers, your stakeholders, and the media.

Nothing undermines the credibility of a leader during a crisis more than when their actions don’t match their words. 

Be congruent. Your actions must match your words.

For example, don’t call a news conference about the coronavirus to tell your audience that social distancing requires people to be six feet apart, when in fact, you are standing shoulder to shoulder with 10 people on the stage with you. That’s not being congruent. You are sending a mixed message and the cynics are going to call it out.

Don’t tell your audience not to shake hands, yet you shake hands. That’s not being congruent.

A perfect example of congruency can be seen in the media, where news anchors are distancing themselves within a news studio. That’s being congruent.

Leaders should be mindful of the proliferation of social media and cell phone cameras. As soon as you behave in a way that lacks congruency, someone will capture you in the act and publicize it. Don’t make your crisis worse by letting your bad actions overshadow your good message. Don’t create a secondary crisis because of your own bad behavior, poor judgment, or lack of congruency.

Leaders are often taught to catch their employees doing something right so praise can be given, rather than catching an employee doing something wrong so that criticism is given. As a leader, you need to lead in actions and in words. We want to catch you doing something right.

In times of crisis, people want to trust the leaders of their companies and their communities. A crisis, as we pointed out in yesterday’s blog, can really highlight who is a true leader and who is a fake leader.

Leadership is never based on one’s title; it’s based on one’s behavior.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

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