How NOT to Communicate During a Crisis

COVID-19 is impacting every human being in some way. This event is occurring whether we like it or not. We get to determine whether the impact will be positive or negative. We get to decide how we will respond and most importantly, communicate.

When communicating in times of crisis do NOT create more FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, or the FUD Factor.

Here are some of the ways FUD is spread:

  • Share inaccurate information. People are craving information and, in the absence (or overabundance) will make up their own stories. Rumors, misinformation, and hunches can spread both panic and complacency. Practice information hygiene by citing the source if you’re passing something on or checking the source if you’re reading something. If the source isn’t stated, ask for it before you accept the information as fact.
  • Wait until you have answers. This is a common point of resistance for leaders during times of change. They want to know more before they share. This is a change that is impacting us all and we can’t afford to wait until answers exist. It’s critical to be transparent with what you do and don’t know. Crisis communication requires leaders to be visible, trustworthy and candid on a consistent basis. Create certainty by committing to a rhythm of communication. Whether or not you have definitive information to share, just showing up makes a statement.
  • Poor word choice. In Illinois we were told to “Stay at Home.” In Michigan the instructions were “Stay Safe Stay Home.” Just a few more words but what a difference in the message! We are all being told to practice “social distancing.” How much better would it be to say, stay physically distanced but socially connected. The words you use matter, so choose them wisely and make sure they will have the intended impact.

Communication is the lifeblood of relationships. It’s what keeps teams functioning, workers productive and organizations profitable. Watch out for FUD-inducing communication killers. As this (or any) crisis unfolds, proactive, consistent and thoughtful communication is critical.

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