In part two of the "Leadership in a Time of Crisis" series, I talked about communication and how it is absolutely THE most important thing for a leader during a crisis.
Read Part 1
Read Part 2
But like you may be doing now, I've stared at the blank page, trying to come up with a message of positivity and hope when I feel like my world is burning down. So here are a few things to get you started.
Be authentic, be human. And recognize that as a leader, this is not your moment to make it be about you. You are shining the light on the path forward, not shining a light on yourself. Resist the temptation to talk about how you are feeling, to share your fears or frustrations. This isn't about you, it's about them.
Think about the emotions of your audience right now. What are your people most likely to be scared, worried, or confused about at this moment? Address that head on. What do you want them to feel by the end of your message? Reassured about the future? Clear on next steps? Make sure you spell that out in your message.
And they want to connect with you authentically. They don't want a polished up marketing statement. People can sniff that out in a hot minute. They want their human feelings, and yours, to be acknowledged.
Be clear and concise. Default to more, shorter communications, rather than one 3 page long blog post or 45 minute video update. Follow good message structure - have a big theme and state it at the beginning, have 2-3 short supporting points, re-state your theme at the end, then say what's next. Use plain language. This is not the time for high-minded, thought leadership writing that's full of industry jargon. Keep your message accurate. If something is a fact, say so. And if it is not yet fact, but is your hope, wish, or belief, then say that.
Be candid. Don't assume that you know how people will react to your message. Be honest and factual. People can smell bullshit from a mile away, so don't try it. Don't make promises to deliver things that are out of your control (i.e. "we'll be back at 100% in a week"). Keep it relevant to your audience and your message. "Being candid" doesn't mean having diarrhea of the mouth and sharing every single bit of minutiae.
Be consistent. How much to communicate? More than you currently are. Take a few minutes to outline a plan for what, how, and when you will communicate to each of your different constituent groups. For example: clients get a weekly email and daily social updates, employees get a daily video call update and weekly summary email, etc.
People understand that you don't know. They expect that. They want to know that you are actively working on a plan, even if the plan is only for the next few steps or next one or two days. They want to see you shine a light on the path and they want to understand the direction forward. In other words, they want you to lead.