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The Demand for Effective Communication to Multiple Audiences

The Demand for Effective Communication to Multiple Audiences
Another challenge for high-stakes leaders is the requirement for effective communications with a variety of audiences with widely differing needs, views, and frames of reference. Given what we know about the interests of our stakeholders, when we do find ourselves in a crisis situation, what do you think they want to hear? What makes this question so difficult to answer is that knowing what they want to hear depends on a number of different variables, all of which make effective communication with each stakeholder group an exceptionally challenging responsibility. We know that each of our stakeholders will be viewing a crisis situation from a different perspective.
We also know because we’ve taken the time to understand our stakeholders, how each group perceives it’s value proposition with our organization. During a crisis, it’s these value propositions that are threatened. So it would make sense for us to frame our communications around the threat that each of our stakeholders is seeing. This isn’t the challenging part, unless of course, you haven’t taken the time to understand how all of your stakeholders gain value from their relationship with your company, then framing your communications will be a challenge. But if you understand them and their interests, you’re in a really good place to start.
The main challenge of communicating with stakeholders during a crisis is finding the time to deliver all of the different messages that each of your stakeholders wants to hear, when they want to hear it, with the content that means the most to them through the medium that each wants to receive it. Think about that for a minute. There is a lot going on here. Each of your stakeholder groups is going to be hyper-focused on collecting whatever information they can. They’ll be looking to you and your team for that information. How can a high-stakes leader make sure that all stakeholders are getting what they need when they need it? This is why companies have a dedicated communications person or team.
During a crisis, there will simply be too many unique messages to send, too many different interested parties for a single crisis leader to effectively manage. Now, if your organization is very small or just getting started, you may not have a dedicated communications leader or team. In this case, you’ll want to appoint someone to this role during a crisis. Perhaps there’s a member of your team who has exceptional communication skills and can take on that role. There are also professional services firms that can fill this role if you’re in desperate need of a resource to help you in this area.
The bottom line here is that your high-stakes leadership team will have an extensive collection of audiences to serve with communications during a crisis. Different groups will want and need to hear different things. Early in a crisis, you’ll be able to communicate with high level general communications that could be sent to all of your stakeholders simultaneously. We’ve seen during the COVID-19 crisis that much of the messaging has been designed to be informative to anyone that takes the time to listen. But these general messages don’t do much to acknowledge or addressed the interests of specific stakeholder groups. Eventually, in any crisis, communication efforts will have to transition from the macro to the micro.
Your messages can be general at first, but will need to become much more targeted and specific as the crisis proceeds. The burden to manage this increasingly specific and complex messaging will eventually become quite significant. Taking the time to build this reality into your crisis planning will pay significant dividends when the inevitable crisis appears at your organization.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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