Leadership communications during a crisis

Leadership communication

Join host Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored are writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros and thought leaders to reveal insights you can incorporate into your work.

Globally recognized PR consultant Bob Pickard

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This week’s episode is a must-listen for leadership and corporate communications staff working with leaders.

A company's reputation
Bob Pickard

Bob Pickard, a globally recognized PR consultant, discusses the importance of leaders tuning into the emotion of of the momment, especially during a crisis. And they must lead and communicate in response to these emotions.

The emotion of the moment must be the point of focus for a leader

“The emotion of the moment has become far more important than the logic or the word of text,” explains Bob, saying that: “If you were to ask me ‘What is the one thing I would say about trends in leadership communication that everybody should remember?’ it would be this: 

State of the art in corporate communications is having your leader take the organization forward with communication that’s authentic, empathetic, and convincing, striking the right real-time emotional cord. And that always starts with the leader saying in public how they feel about the situation, and also admitting the extent of the problem, or difficulties, or challenges.

Bob Pickard

“Now, that is very unconventional with standard PR practice over the years,” notes Bob. “In the last three decades PR has been about pivots, key messages, the glass is half full, and here’s what we’re doing right.

What was once seen as a weakness is now a sign of strength in a leader

“It’s almost been a sign of weakness in corp comms to admit that something’s not going well because leaders won’t want to look like they are not on top of the situation.

But now I recommend to my clients who are leaders that they begin almost anything they say with an acknowledgement of some sort of shortcoming, or some problem they are trying to overcome, and that immediately not only commands the attention of the audience, it establishes the credibility of the leader tackling a tough one authentically. 

Bob Pickard

Based in Toronto, Bob recently commissioned Signal to research the use of the terms communication, leadership, and crisis. Those three words, as well as the word fear appeared in more than 30,000 articles in March. That number had more than tripled compared to the previous three months.

“The global level of fear had gone through the roof,” notes Bob. “And leadership and communication were intimately connected. This fear was driving a need for leadership that offers clear and open communication. People feel fear about job loss, loss of home, or loss of family, or loss of a loved one.

A CEO has to understand the power of PR and the strategic value of corporate communications as a strategic asset . . .Today, leadership and communications are almost seen as synonymous. You can’t be a good leader unless you’re a fluid and convincing communicator.

Bob Pickard

The new role of PR in the 2020s

One of Bob’s key recommendations is that PR executives should be conscience of organization and give honest advice to a CEO. This is because the CEO may be cut off from outside or even within an organization.

“They need to know what’s going on out there and determine how the organization will deal with it,” he explains. “Today, the role of PR is to put emerging issues or changes in mood on the radar and let CEO know what the feeling or vibe of the moment is.

A CEO has to understand the power of PR and the strategic value of corporate communications as a strategic asset . . .Today, leadership and communications are almost seen as synonymous. You can’t be a good leader unless you’re a fluid and convincing communicator.

Bob Pickard

Bob strongly advises leaders and communicators to prepare for next crisis. “After COVID-19 it is no optional to tune in to correct wavelength of public sentiment at that moment,” he stresses. “The communicator advising should provide the right guidance about how to communicate as a real-time leader, and to constantly be aware of where public sentiment is at. Leaders must calibrate and adjust tonality accordingly.

Find Bob Pickard on LinkedIn and at BobPickard.com

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Need a tech management consultant?

Do you need a technology management consultant? Kevin McCall has extensive hands-on and leadership experience across diverse industries and organizations. Kevin can be reached at Kef.ca. He’s also one of this week’s episode sponsors.

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