I was honored to provide the opening keynote presentation for the Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) in Galveston, Texas on February 21st. It was a great audience of 600 dedicated PR officials from all over Texas. The presentation focused on crisis communication, but included lessons on nonverbal communication, leadership and ethics. Here are a few of the key learning points regarding communicating during a crisis situation:

  1. Listen
    1. Increase senior management visibility.
    2. Listen to stakeholder’s concerns.
    3. Give attention to those affected.
    4. Don’t let a state of denial get in the way of hearing what people are saying.
    5. Use active listening and nonverbal skills such as tilting your head slightly, nodding and leaning into the speaker
  2. Be the First and Most Credible Source of Information
    1. Provide factual information to your stakeholders before it reaches them through other less reliable sources.
    2. Be honest and transparent.
    3. By the way, provide the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Half-truths don’t count, different versions of the truth don’t count, alternative facts don’t count.
    4. Avoid speculation, impromptu and off-the-cuff comments.
    5. Reinforce the message through personal communication, blogs and social media.
  3. Be Empathetic
    1. Show empathy in your communications and include it as part of your primary message.
    2. Talk from the heart – people will remember how you made them feel more than your exact words.
    3. Keep this in mind: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt
  4. Use Nonverbal Communication to Reinforce the Message
    1. Engage with eye contact.
    2. Open your body and uncross your arms.
    3. Use palms up to show openness, receptiveness and honesty.
    4. Your body language should be consistent with your message.
    5. For a more detailed handout on the topic of nonverbal communication, visit www.thelanzagroup.com/handouts
  5. Provide a Path to the Future
    1. See opportunity in every difficulty.
    2. Be committed to a plan for recovery.
    3. Challenge people to succeed together.
    4. Show confidence and optimism.
    5. Most importantly – be passionate about your devotion to the future.

Thanks to TSPRA. See you down the road!