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Dos and Don’ts of Crisis Communication Mastery

Dos and Don’ts of Crisis Communication Mastery

Communication (noun): “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing or using some other medium.”

This definition shows that it is the responsibility of the communicator to impart the message in an appropriate way rather than the responsibility of the receiver to receive it in the way it was intended.

Here are various dos and don’ts to ensure you fulfil this responsibility.

Do Use the 4-Mat Model

The 4-mat model accounts for the different ways people absorb information and their different styles of communication and learning.

  • Why?

“Why” people absorb information so long as they know the reason behind any message.

The majority of people fall under this category, which makes it a good starting point for any communication plan.

Answer questions such as:

  • Why are we communicating this?

  • Why is this happening?

  • Why is this important?

  • Why are you getting this email?

  • What?

People with this learning style focus on concepts.

Answer questions such as:

  • What are you sharing?

  • What are you informing?

  • What is the concept of the message?

  • What do you want me to do?

  • How?

People under this style are geared towards the process. They are the implementers who need to know the skills or what will be required to change or move something.

Answer questions such as:

  • How are we going to roll it out?

  • How are we going to move it physically?

  • How are we going to do this?

  • How are we going to communicate?

  • What if?

These are people who adapt early on. They can string bits and pieces together and think conceptually.

Answer questions such as:

  • What if this goes wrong?

  • What if this happens?

As you go through these categories in a clockwise movement starting with “why,” you collect different types of people with your message. Go for the majority first so more people absorb your information.

Don’t tell them what to think

Our minds can’t process a negative in terms of actions. For example, if I say don’t think of a blue tree, you have to think of a blue tree before you can follow my order.

In a crisis, saying don’t panic or don’t rush into things won’t work. As soon as we say “don’t,” listeners only process the end of the sentence. To counter this, tell them:

  1. what we’re going to tell them

  2. the thing (the message)

  3. what we’ve told them (conclusion or summary).

Do get yourself out of that panic mode

We are only human. Panic will also affect us when crises erupt. As leaders, though, we need to find the best and most effective ways to get ourselves out of panic mode and into lighthouse mode.

Here’s a trick I’d like to share. It’s called hakalau. It’s an ancient Hawaiin mind hack.

As you sit in front of your computer, look above your screen and focus on one thing there. While you focus, expand your awareness further and further out to your peripheral. Whilst doing this, do intentional deep breathing. Keep doing this for two minutes.

I guarantee that within a short period, you can get these benefits:

  • Pull yourself out of a negative emotion like panic or sadness.

  • Take a “time out” from the stress.

  • Focus.

  • Enter a learning state.

Do set up communication channels

Make sure you have a plan in place to identify communication channels. Look retrospectively at what worked in the past and tweak it based on:

  • WHO are the different audiences

  • WHAT is the message

  • HOW do you share the message (text, email, Slack channel, Zoom, etc.)

  • WHEN is the message given (schedule and rhythm of frequency)

  • WHO OWNS the message (ideally, communication comes from the CEO for the entire business then from supervisor for individual staff assignments)

Don’t underestimate the impact of your communication

Leaders influence emotions. Emotions drive people. People drive performance. That is how we get change to happen if we want people to do something rapidly.

Be intentional with the way you communicate. Give clear and specific calls to action. Use humour for engagement.


Each leader has a unique style. These tips are meant to guide you as you navigate your business through tough times.

Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Drop me a line and let’s have a courageous conversation about it.


If you are interested in having Ally speak at an upcoming event or would like more information about Ally's Programs please book a call.

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