Crisis communication

When every word counts

There are moments when every word counts.

Photo by Samson on Unsplash

Some of these moments have been experienced by companies, institutions and individuals in the recent past. Something needs to be said in a situation that no one expected. Many organisations have had problematic experiences with statements made by managers in the past. The damage to the image, the credibility, the brand is quickly done and can, in the worst case, last for a long time.

How can you put your organisation in a better position?

Communication problem

A big problem with communication is that it has often been learned, taught and lived over the years that people like to talk a lot but say nothing. For a good reason, the credibility of many organisations, brands and institutions is low, and the leaders there are no better off.

There is often uncertainty about what one wants to say, how one wants to say it and whether one wants to say it at all. You are unsuitable as a leader with such an attitude. In times of crisis, bad leaders are the quickest and easiest to recognise. If you see yourself in these patterns or have even been ordered to follow them, now is the time to make an immediate change.

Make statements

Taking a clear stand means that some people will like it, but some will not. Negative feedback is part of the consequence of making a clear statement. If you make a statement that pleases everyone without exception, you do not have a clear point of view. It is impossible that taking a clear position will only show positive feedback as a consequence. You have to live with this aspect. Words have consequences, and for a good reason, people commonly state that “Words Matter”; words have meaning. If you comment on the Russian invasion, the war in Ukraine, and do not use words such as Russia, invasion, war, Ukraine, Putin, war crimes, you can expect to be accused, correctly, of hypocrisy.

Crisis communication means that you do not use tricks, deliberate ambiguities, open-ended options or contentless ramblings. If you fail to do so, you will damage yourself as well as the organisation for which you speak.

If no one has taught you how to open, structure and close a statement, now is the time to learn immediately. Only untrained amateurs use archaic phrases such as “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen” for an opening (note: there are more than two genders, this has been scientifically proven, and as a leader, you should know about this) to bore the listeners. It would be best to have your listener’s attention. You will get it with a strong opening and a well-spoken, unambiguous, position-taking core message.


Words are patient. Therefore, the conclusion of your message should always consist of what you intend to do and, above all, when you plan to do it. The next time your organisation is asked about your carbon footprint, how you are handling the energy crisis, or in which ways you are taking care of your employee’s mental health, it is time to state which actions will be implemented.

Only clear answers will help you in crisis communication.

Read more about crisis communication in
this week’s podcast: click here to listen and learn.

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Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt is in business since 1998. Helping managers to become better leaders by mastering the concept of Sustainable Leadership. Based in Spain & London.