• Barb Mayfield

5 tips for communicating with calm and clarity in a crisis


Living in the midst of an unprecedented crisis we are inundated with news of the pandemic 24/7. Is all communication about the crisis equal? Which communications are helpful? Which ones are better ignored?


In addition to news, we’re all receiving targeted forms of crisis communication about the pandemic. Everyone seems to want to let us know what they're doing in response to the crisis and how it affects us. How does your list compare with ours? How important and useful is each type of communication?


  • We’re receiving regular updates from the nursing facilities where our mothers live. Essential.

  • Our church alerts us in multiple ways to changes such as worshiping online and hosting meetings over Zoom. Very helpful.

  • Even as a retiree, I still receive daily email updates from Purdue. Interesting – definitely. Absolutely necessary – probably not.

  • Our city government communicates notices such as park closures and canceled public events. Useful.

  • We also receive crisis communication from places where we do business, both locally and online. Helpful... if from somewhere we regularly do business.


Why is communication during a crisis so critical? If tasked with providing crisis communication, how should it be handled?


Crises – natural disasters, economic emergencies, and disease outbreaks are events and situations that turn the world upside down and can wreak havoc and chaos, especially if poorly handled. One of the main ways to create calm amidst a storm is with crisis communication that is well-developed, well-crafted, and well-delivered. This timely tip sheet, available as a free download (https://www.nutritioncommunicator.com/tip-sheets), covers 5 tips for communicating in a crisis.


5 Tips for Communicating in a Crisis

Tip #1 Inform messaging with reliable data

Before creating messages, gather the most reliable data available. Look only to credible sources. Double-check all facts and figures. Use the data and information collected to develop messages that will be meaningful to your target audience using words and context they will understand. Provide your sources so people can seek out more information.


Tip #2 Prioritize directives

Determine what to include in crisis communication based on what your audience most needs to know. During a crisis, people are overwhelmed and don’t need to be inundated with extraneous information. Prioritize what your audience needs to know and how they need to respond for their safety and the safety of their communities. Help them focus on what is most important.


Tip #3 Address fears

Crises are scary. When people are scared they often make poor decisions. Communicate with calm. Address fears and help alleviate them as much as possible. Help people take measures that prevent the worst-case scenario that worries them most. Consider the audience’s emotional health and well-being when communicating during a crisis. Don’t ignore their fears.


Tip #4 Provide clear action steps

During a crisis, people feel a loss of control. By providing clear action steps, audience members can regain a sense of control over a previously helpless situation. Include in crisis communication steps people can take to help themselves and others get through the crisis and prevent future crises. Make the action steps realistic and easy to remember. Simplicity is key.


Tip #5 Furnish timely updates

Crises are often evolving situations. Communication needs to be ongoing. Circle back to the first tip and continue to gather reliable information and data to share with audiences through timely updates. Continue to prioritize directives, address fears, and provide clear action steps. When the crisis is over, evaluate the response to prepare for future emergencies.


Crisis communication saves lives. When the inevitable crisis occurs, be ready to communicate promptly, accurately, calmly, and clearly. Start with what you know to be true and build on that as more facts become available. Help people know what to do and not do. During a crisis, people look to their leaders for direction. Provide it.

“We need to remember that circumstances don’t make a person, they reveal a person.”

~ Emma Jameson

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