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Jeff Matlow
March 30, 2020

Crisis Communication:  How To Do It

Effective Crisis Communication

I hope you've read the piece about why crisis communication best practices are important.

Now we're going to go through the how - and then the when and who of communication.  


HOW You Need to Communicate Effectively

Like the 3 reasons why you need to communicate effectively there are also 3 main reasons how you can communicate effectively.

  • Acknowledge and appreciate
  • Stick to the facts
  • Be transparent and honest


1. Acknowledge and Appreciate

Participants made an emotional commitment to your event the moment they registered and paid you money.  They've been training hard and have been focused on being elated during race day.

It is critical for your communication to acknowledge the effort they've put in. Acknowledge the fact that we all want the event to happen, but health and safety must come first.  


Acknowledge that you're doing everything possible to not let them down.

Do not underestimate the power of empathy. 

If I were there with you, I'd write "Acknowledge and Appreciate" on a post-it note and super-glue it to your computer monitor.  Maybe I'd tattoo it on that part of your fingers above the knuckles... whatever that part of the fingers is called.  


2. Stick To The Facts

Be level-headed in how you communicate.  Don't toss out any conjecture.  Don't say things you may have to rescind in the future.  If you say something that turns out to be false, that may - and probably will - come back to haunt you worse than if you just admitted the truth in the first place.

Remember, whatever you write will be discussed and posted amongst people.  Even that one-on-one email with a frustrated participant that you thought was private, you're one post away from everybody seeing you at your worst or your best.  You get to choose which it is.


Stick with the facts. 

Be supportive and sympathetic. 

If you have nothing to report, tell them you have nothing but you're still monitoring the situation.

Level-headedness is what real leadership is about.


3. Be Transparent and Honest

People trust people who are honest and transparent.  Again, your participants gave you money. They put their trust in you that you're going to provide them with a service. Due to extenuating circumstances, you may not be able to live up to your end of the bargain in the same way they were expecting.

Make sure your communication outlines the reasons for any decision you make (here's a good example).  If you are giving people the option to defer, explain why.  If you're a non-profit that isn't giving refunds, let them know what their money is supporting.

Whether you're refunding, canceling, deferring, postponing, virtual or any combination of them, your participants are not getting exactly what they paid for.  Transparency and honesty will greatly reduce your risk of negative backlash.


Again, three reasons how you need to communicate effectively in crisis

  1. Acknowledge and appreciate
  2. Stick to the facts
  3. Be transparent and honest

OK, now it's time to learn about When to Communicate Effectively in Crisis


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