In a Crisis, Emotions Are as Important as the Words

Survival gearWhen a crisis hits, individuals don’t really hear the words of reassurance. They tune in with their feelings. Health authorities repeatedly explained to the public that you can only get contaminated with the Ebola virus through direct contact with bodily fluids.

But surveys uncovered that a greater part of Americans feared they can get the infection through incidental contact and have little trust in their government’s capacity to deal with the crisis.

Touch Their Emotions

People don’t hear the facts. Pictures speak louder than words so all they see are Ebola victims on stretchers being wheeled into hospitals by health professionals draped from head to foot in protective gear.

So while facts are important, spokespersons in a crisis – regardless of whether it’s the spread of the Ebola virus or reacting to a blast in an organization’s industrial facility – need to show empathy and feeling. Spokespersons should be thoughtful and communicate a reliable message to engender trust.

unhappy and happy facesWhen President Obama guaranteed Americans shouldn’t stress over Ebola and that the government was prepared. “It’s important for Americans to know the facts,” he said. However, it wasn’t sufficient because everyone was worried about it and the facts weren’t enough.

As BloombergBusinessweek revealed at that point, “Six years in, it’s clear that Obama’s presidency administration is largely adhering to intellectual rigor — regardless of the public’s emotional needs.”

In a company crisis, the public face announcing updates can’t transform into spokesperson mode. He must have a feeling of humanity and, while conveying the facts, recognize the audience’s fears and cause them to rest easy thinking about the circumstance. He needs to earn the public’s trust.

He’s conversing with mothers and fathers who keep thinking about whether their friends and family have survived an explosion or a shooter gone wild in the workplace.

What to Say

If you’re a spokesperson and end up on the front line, then you need to talk in a calming and real way. Don’t make bogus guarantees and say, “All will be well… ” when you don’t know that. Rather use words like, “Here’s what we’re doing…” or “What we can advise you as of now is…”

Let people know realize that the organization is in full crisis mode and doing all that could be within reach to fix the situation. Recognize that there are human beings being affected.

Create a time line of what occurred, what’s being done about it, and when you’ll be giving your next update. Don’t be hesitant to rehash your message, “To emphasize, this is the thing that we know… ” may resonate with the individuals who didn’t hear what you said the first time.

You can’t cause the audience rest easy thinking about the circumstance when you appear to be standoffish and removed. You show your empathy and contact their feelings with your facial expressions, manner of speaking and body language. That’s what the audience is seeing and feeling.

Remember, you’re speaking to people who have friends and family involved. How you would feel if you had a relative in a similar situation? What might it take to console you?

Be prepared when your organization is hit with an instant crisis so you’re not scrambling to formulate a response while the media is knocking at your door.

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