Whether you are a large business or a small charity, no organisation is immune from a potential crisis - because, life happens and there’s such a thing as human nature.
The Chinese symbol for crisis is two strokes, one meaning danger the other, opportunity. And that is the reality, a crisis doesn’t have to be a disaster - it can be turned into an opportunity.
In order to realise that opportunity organisations must adhere to three little c’s: being consistent, compelling and clear.
During the coronavirus crisis I’ve been watching closely how different countries and different leaders have managed their communications response with “the three c” principle in mind.
It’s been both fascinating and sometimes painful to observe how they have or have not been implemented.
For example in the UK we started off slowly, the message wasn’t clear, it wasn’t consistent but it did begin to become compelling. Changes were then made when the public didn’t respond as quickly as the government had hoped to the social distancing guidelines and the message then became much clearer and always consistent: stay home, stay safe and support the NHS.
They learned. The whole team began communicating the key messages, they organised a briefing each day at 5pm, and as a result this has now become a consistent message across all the spokespeople at the same time, every day.
In America, Trump has shown us again that he struggles to stay on message - which if nothing else is certainly compelling!, When it looks like the message is veering off or making him supposedly look bad, his focus can change at any given time. As a leader and communicator this can be dangerous and has the potential to leave the team in a precarious position - additionally in this crisis it can leave the public feeling unsafe, unsure and largely fearful as to who’s in control, what they should be doing and more importantly if the virus is under control.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand seems to have been the star performer in this crisis. She has not only spoken with clarity, but importantly with empathy - on one occasion speaking to the camera in her sweatshirt and having her husband accidentally walk in the room during the recording.
She speaks like us. But she also speaks with certainty, she and her government acted decisively and speedily, and she spoke from the heart - compelling viewing for a country looking to their leader for a sense of security and guidance. The only criticism she has received is that she should be sharing her expertise with other countries to help them navigate more easily through this season.
The crisis itself will take some time to recover from. The analysis of which country acted most effectively is years from being known, but the assessment of how effectively the message has been communicated is beginning to emerge.
Possibly the most compelling message of all during this crisis has not come from any of our national premiers, but rather a 100 year old war veteran - Captain Tom Moore - who when interviewed on national television, spoke from his experience of the frontline and encouraged everyone living in fear that, “the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away. Tomorrow will be a good day.”
That’s a message we can all get behind.
Andi Russell, Training & Development Director and co-founder of Jersey Road PR.
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