Monday, September 12, 2016

Of baskets and binders: why words matter especially in a crisis

There is little that's routine in an election campaign ... things might not be at the "big crisis" level ... but being prepared and avoiding communications regret is critical.

Crisis comms is really about avoiding regret: being prepared to say what you want/need to say ... and being able to avoid saying something you shouldn't ... In both cases, a crisis comms technique such as message mapping will help you be as ready as you can be. Learning about that process developed by Dr.Vince Covello is a must for any communicator.

Improvisation in a crisis, or even at a campaign event, can lead to almost fatal mistakes. 
Secretary Clinton learned about the pitfalls of generalization and putting huge part of the electorate in the "crazy" basket: 
Maybe it was planned all along ... but to me ... that generalization proved more damaging than the point she was trying to make ... A better approach might have been to say something like: 
"We know some of Mr. Trump's supporters are not among the most admired ... the racists, bigots, etc ... I'm sure that the majority of decent Americans who support him do so because they have been left behind and are angry ...their voice matters and I am listening to their anger and frustration ... "

A better approach offers a bit more nuance ... 

Sometimes, one colorful image can undo a whole life's worth of promoting equality and the role of women in the higher echelons of politics, government and business ... Just ask Mitt Romney about "binders full of women" ... a bad turn of phrase that totally undermined his message ... just watch the full video below:

Under stress, many successful executives and even experiences politicians and spokespersons will slip up ... That's why preparation and practice are so crucial to face a crisis with confidence.

And then of course, is Donald Trump ,,, who consistently creates crises of his own making ... suffers from the worst case of misogyny and verbal diarrhea imaginable when his expresses his views on women: 

Short of a total apology and retiring to a monastery on some remote island ...there's nothing that can be repaired there by even the most experienced crisis comms practitioner ...some things ( like the tobacco industry ...) are just indefensible ... 

In the end, being prepared will help you detect, possibly even avoid ... and certainly help you deal more efficiently with the communications challenges of a crisis or emergency. Relying on the boss' expertise and experience ...without a solid crisis comms plan ...without even exercising the one you might have ... all that will leave you totally exposed to just one bad turn of phrase or slip up ...

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