skip to Main Content

Connecting in a Crisis: It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Connecting in a Crisis: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it

What you say, how you say it, and when you say it are crucial when it comes to communicating to your workforce during times of crisis. With COVID-19, the most obvious threat for your workers might be health-related, but there is also the potential impact to their livelihoods, which creates tense situations in every area of business.

The day-to-day communication playbook flips in stressful situations. It all comes down to the perception about the four factors* your audience subconsciously uses to determine if they trust your message:

  • Competence & Expertise
  • Dedication & Commitment
  • Honesty & Openness
  • Caring & Empathy

In normal times when concern is low, 80% of people determine trust based on competence and expertise,* meaning they are more trusting of subject matter experts and facts.


But that goes out the window during a crisis.



When people are upset or stressed, they become less trusting and have more difficulty processing subject matter. In these circumstances, people determine trust through their perception of how empathetic and caring you come across.

This means you want to focus on care and concern in what you say and how you say it rather than inundate people with facts and figures. Like meeting a person for the first time, care is often assessed in the first 30 seconds (or top two paragraphs) of your message.

During a crisis, people multi-task, and their attention span is short. Connect and engage your audience with messaging that focuses on the following:

  • Comfort your audience and acknowledge their fears. Your number one priority in crisis communications is to convey that you care. 
  • Try to be as transparent with information as possible. If you don’t know, say so. If the outcome isn’t desirable, don’t over assure. Be transparent and forthcoming.
  • Keep your messages concise, use no more than three core ideas with one or two supporting facts for each. Click here for a messaging chart.
  • Deliver the message on a fifth-grade level and don’t include jargon. Simplicity is extremely valuable during a crisis.
  • Make sure your key message points stay the same across your delivery platforms. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  • Communicate what you know, when you know it. The rumor mill can spin out of control quickly. If you aren’t speaking, someone else will, and this can impact your trust and credibility. Technology and social media have amplified the need for speed.
  • Use supporting infographics or photos which often increase the impact of a message and provide more clarity.
  • Take questions, answer concerns, survey your workforce, respond to their needs with real language instead of corporate messaging. This is the time to open the lines of communication.

futureAlign can help. Crisis communications are what we do…along with leadership coaching, employee engagement, and more. Drop a line to me, and we’ll see how we can help! Reach me at

*According to research by the Center for Risk Communication

Jennifer Walsh

Jennifer Walsh

Jennifer Walsh, Account Director, Frontline/Field Communications
20 years experience internal and external communications, with a diversified background leading in corporate and industrial settings including upstream and downstream sites. BA Mass Communications
Prosci® and National Incident Management System (ICS 400) Certified

Back To Top