The anatomy of a message


Published on: March 2020

Written by: Suzanne Bates

With all that is going on in the world today, it is important for leaders to speak up and communicate the right message to their teams. Crafting a message during a time of crisis isn’t easy. Many of our clients have come to us over the last week or so looking for guidance on crisis communication and messaging. When it comes to communicating high stakes and important information to the team, what to say and how to say it is key to connecting with your audience.

We created an 8-part template to ensure you inform, calm, and educate your teams about what matters. Here are the components that make up this template:

1. Clearly state what’s happening now. Start off your communication with a clear overview of what is happening – address decisions that have been made and the context for why those decisions were made now. Keep it to 2-3 straightforward sentences.

2. Share a broader perspective. Follow that up with reassurance. Point out why this is a good decision within the broader context of what’s happening.

3. Offer positivity and silver linings. Without being falsely upbeat, now is the time to reinforce any positive aspects of the situation. Point out specifically why people should have reason to be optimistic.

4. Provide an honest assessment. The next step is to provide a realistic view of what might happen. Include the context of the situation and reassurance of how the company will react.

5. Rally the troops and tell them how. The next step is to bring the team together around the cause and provide a clear sense of what they can do in the situation to help the company and themselves.

6. Set clear expectations. Follow that with a set of specific expectations—what you are looking for from people in the short term.

7. Admit what you don’t know. Be candid with what you don’t know. This will help build trust that the communication is not simply a whitewash and will put uncertainties – for the firm, and for your team members – into a context that offers transparency and encourages discussion.

8. Energize and mobilize. Close your communication with a message that seeks to energize and mobilize everyone to action. Give them reason to be hopeful and make sure they understand why you are hopeful too.

This 8-part template will ensure you inform, calm, and educate your teams about what matters. We hope you keep this tool in your back pocket and find it helpful as you navigate everything that lies ahead.

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