By Paul Barton
WHETHER it’s a small business, a large company, or the entire nation, when a crisis hits, people want to hear three message types, they want to hear them in a particular order, and they want to hear them right now. If you’re a business leader or a spokesperson for your organization, you need to be able to respond immediately and effectively to your employees, shareholders, the news media, and other key audiences. There’s a lot at risk, the stakes are high, and the clock is ticking.
The three message types can help you to respond like a good leader. To help you remember them, I’ve classified the essential message types as the three Hs: Heart, Heroism, and Hope. So, fasten your seatbelts; here’s how to use the three Hs.
1) Lead with Your Heart. First, people need to know you care before they care what you know. It sets the appropriate tone. Your audiences need to know you care in a credible, authentic way. If they don’t believe you truly care, they won’t listen to anything else you have to say.
2) Be a Hero, Do the Right Thing. Once people understand that you truly care, it’s time to “be a hero.” Talk about doing the right thing and speak with conviction and confidence. Begin to set the stage for solutions. “We won’t rest until we get to the bottom of this.” “We will spare no expense.” “We will put steps in place to make sure this never happens again.”
3) Close with a Hopeful Future. You’ve shown you care and you shown that you are committed to doing the right thing. Now close with future-oriented messages of hope and inclusiveness. “I know that, with your help, we will defeat this.” “The things that bring us together are stronger than the things that pull us apart.” “Together, we will get through this.”
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
You don’t have to look far for a crisis these days. There have been plenty of real-world examples in 2020 and plenty of leaders trying to respond to them with varying degrees of success. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Think about leaders who spoke about COVID-19 and what needed to be done. Or think about the tragic murder of George Floyd and how leaders responded in the midst of the worldwide outrage that followed. Who were the leaders who conveyed messages that resonated with you and made you feel confident and hopeful? Who were the leaders who conveyed messages that didn’t leave you feeling confident or maybe even filled you with enough rage to throw your shoes at your TV set? Pres. Trump, Dr. Anthony Fauci, former Vice Pres. Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill di Blasio, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and many others all had their moment in front of the microphones.
I’m betting the leaders that resonated with you followed the three Hs. You believed they cared and were speaking from their heart. You liked the conviction they conveyed as they began to talk about what needed to be done, and you liked how they painted a picture of a brighter more inclusive future. Those that had you screaming back at your TV didn’t show they cared, or at least not in a credible way, they didn’t speak about doing the right thing with resolve, and they didn’t offer a hopeful future or talk about bringing people together. Learn from their examples and think about how you can apply the three Hs for your audiences.
The three Hs can help you be a more effective leader when people need you the most.
But wait, there’s more…
The three Hs are just one part of a simple but powerful, step-by-step methodology we’ve put together that allows you to craft crisis messages that turn heads, win hearts, and get real results. This methodology was put together over decades by crisis communication experts and used in multiple situations across multiple industries.
You can learn the entire system in under 50 minutes for under $50 in our online course. Oh, and there’s a money-back guarantee so you really have nothing to lose. You know you need this. The next crisis is coming. Everyone will be looking to you. Will you be ready to step up and lead?