Written by: Melissa Gustafson, Spring Intern
Organizational leaders – especially CEOs – are what we at CommCore call “Communicators-in-Chief.” Every nuance of how they come across in speeches, briefings, interviews, and meetings conveys their brand message. This is especially true when responding publicly to a crisis.
Last December Delta Airlines’ CEO deftly defused a crisis by issuing a rapidly executed pro-active public statement and apology. He appeared concerned, confident, and assertive when he promised to make things right for aggrieved passengers. He was prepared and credible. This week United Airlines’ CEO, by general consensus, arguably worsened a crisis by issuing contradictory and cold public statements over a 48-hour period. He appeared uncaring and bureaucratic when presenting his case, and both he and United have been taking a bashing worldwide. Observers almost universally said his apology was late and sounded hollow and insincere.
CommCore’s 3 P’s of public presentation (preparation, practice, and passion) apply in these cases:
- To be effective, any public statement or speech by a CEO or other organizational leader requires preparation, whether there’s a crisis or not. The statement or speech must align with the organization’s brand promise. Having prepared templates to work from ensures that whatever the content or situation, the statement or speech strikes the right notes and tone.
- The best communicators, like the best athletes, stay at the top of their game by practicing. Media and Presentation training for a range of presentation scenarios including crisis response makes it more likely the presenter will come across credibly and confidently when the time comes.
- Belief in your organization, its brand promise, and its values is best conveyed by passion. Especially in a crisis, a leader needs to come across first as truly concerned and caring when presenting his or her case, and stating what will be done to make things right.