July 27, 2020

Mind Your C’s: Tips for Effective Crisis Communications

by Ellen Mallernee Barnes in News

As we explored in our recent white paper, Leading Through Crisis: Communications Lessons and Opportunities, the content of what you communicate during difficult times is critical, but the tone of those messages is as important as what’s said.

In that white paper, we outlined six key guidelines to remember for effective communication. We called them the six C’s, namely:

1. Calm: Project a sense of calm and use rational language to explain actions.

2. Candid: Choose candor over charisma. Honesty, especially when delivering bad news, is preferable to charm or evasiveness. Sugarcoating or overpromising will be debilitating in the long run.

3. Confident: Share the ways in which you see through to the other side of the crisis and your vision for how to get there.

4. Credible: Ground your messaging in data, using hard numbers to back up communication.

5. Compassionate: Demonstrate an understanding of the difficulty of the situation and acknowledge the range of emotions the audience is experiencing.

6. Consistent: Repeat, repeat, repeat.

In discussing our findings with a panel of media, brand and leadership experts—Dino Delic, director of executive deliverables at Meltwater; Shannelle Armstrong Fowler, adjunct professor of brand strategy, consumer behavior and marketing at Columbia College Chicago; and Henna Inam, CEO of Transformational Leadership and author of Wired for Disruption and Wired for Authenticity—we identified three additional C’s critical to effective communication by leaders:

  • Conviction: While acknowledging the ambiguities and uncertainties with the information available, speak with authority and belief in what you are saying. Or, as Linda’s Grandmom Nina would put it, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
  • Clear: Simplify information and break it down into digestible, understandable components in terms that the average reader, listener or viewer can understand.
  • Controlled: Manage your audience’s emotions, not only in the delivery of your communications, but also in how you respond to questions, no matter how challenging or even insulting. It’s about staying on message—and on brand.

Are there other C’s you would add to our ever-growing list? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

We hope you will join us Wednesday, July 29, at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST for a LinkedIn Live session hosted by Meltwater to continue the conversation. Get the details here.