The extremely smart Nick Morgan of Public Words recently published an article that reveals the results of a study on stress. The study shows that “stress – and the emotions of frustration, anxiety and fear that go with it – are contagious.”
This is important for leaders to realize prior to experiencing a crisis
Because successful crisis management often requires an appearance, in some capacity, by the organization’s leadership. Whether this “appearance” is in the form of communication with external stakeholders or simply for the organization’s internal stakeholder communication, the whole point of having leadership communicate with key stakeholders in a crisis is to calm fears and reassure those who matter to your organization that the crisis is being taken seriously and that everything is under control – or at least will be soon – because the organization is doing XYZ to accomplish this.
So if your leadership is feeling stressed – which let’s face it, if they aren’t feeling stressed in a crisis, it’s probably not a very big crisis – and isn’t able to adequately control that stress, then your crisis communications risks not being very effective.
And while we’ve always known this, the fact that recent studies prove that stress is contagious, means that stress risks having more of a negative impact on your crisis management than perhaps previously anticipated.
So what does this mean for your crisis preparedness?
As a starting point, this proves the importance of putting your organization’s leadership team through high-stakes media training (which isn’t just for the media, but for communicating in tough times with all key stakeholders), as well as to put the team’s crisis management and communications skills to the test with a comprehensive and realistic crisis simulation.
The last thing you want in a crisis is to communicate ineffectively. Worse than that, is to communicate in a way that increases the stress, anxiety and concerns of your key stakeholders. This is something to keep in mind and aim to mitigate when implementing a crisis-ready corporate culture.
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Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.