image of locked gateWant to learn how not to communicate? Just take your cues from U.S. lawmakers.

From a political and governing standpoint, the state of affairs on Capitol Hill is absolutely deplorable.

Now, by the time you read this, the government shutdown might be over (I don’t trust any “deals” unless they’re inked, but that’s just me).

But temporary reprieve aside, it would seem our political representatives could do with a refresher in Crisis Communications 101:

Stop talking and start working.

Last week, and over the weekend, after failing to come to a deal to fund the government for three weeks, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had little better to do than to issue statements blaming each other for their failure to engage. And each claimed to speak on behalf of the electorate.

Here are a couple of quotes, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times:

“The American people cannot begin to understand why the Senate Democratic leader thinks the entire government should be shut down until he gets his way on illegal immigration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hours after a last-chance Senate vote failed.

and

Democrats feel “very, very strongly about the issues” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, adding that he believes “the American people are on our side.”

Depending on which poll you look at, each of these quotes could be somewhat accurate.

But from a messaging point of view, they are complete and utter failures. 

Because regardless of which side of the aisle they typically inhabit, what most of the afore-mentioned American people “cannot begin to understand” is how the people they elected are quite so incompetent.

Or, how members of Congress continue to get paid during a shutdown, unlike their staffers (who make little enough as it is) or federal employees, when these are the two groups that do the bulk of the work to actually keep the government (and country) running.

For heaven’s sake, have they been taking lessons from Veep?!

Do yourself a favor. If you’re working on your organization’s crisis communications plan and messaging, remember that no one – NO ONE – is interested finger-pointing.

They want to know:

  1. What you’re going to DO to fix the mess;
  2. When you’re going to do it; and then
  3. How the work is progressing and when the mess is going to be fixed.

There’s time enough to play the blame game once disaster has been averted. That’s what postmortems are for.

What big girls and boys do in a crisis, though, is to talk as little as possible.

Instead, they do the work and get things back on track. Because actions speak far, far louder than words.

Image: Pexels, CC0

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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