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Navigating crisis communication with stakeholders

It's often said that honesty is the best policy. But like most leaders, you're probably wondering what that means in unstable times. Should you put on a brave, smiling face and celebrate the positives? Or should you remain stoic and resolved to recount the challenges and losses of an unprecedented season?

The reality is both approaches fail. Too much optimism creates false hope, which leads to disappointment. Too much reality kills morale and momentum. Erring on either side risks long term damage to your business and weakening confidence in your leadership.

So, how can you be honest in a way that inspires hope and encourages stakeholder buy-in?

It starts by understanding how effective leaders use knowledge to empower people. It's not enough to know what's coming if you lack the power, resources, or position to change it. Consider a situation where late payments from some large customers leaves your organization in a vulnerable financial position and your own payroll is going to be at risk. Many of your employees will be helpless to change the situation, which breeds fear, worry, and more instability as they wonder about their own future and job. However, your shareholders and leadership team may have access to resources and opportunities to salvage the situation. Each group deserves honesty, but that doesn’t mean all access for everyone. Learning to leverage honesty for long term growth is vital for every leader.

Here are four steps to get you started:


  • Identify who your stakeholder groups are (e.g employees, shareholders, managers).

  • Determine the primary needs and concerns of each stakeholder group.

  • Target transparency and information to give each group what they need to act and find peace.

  • Communicate early and often.


By focusing your communication on areas of action, you empower your team, boost morale, and build confidence and commitment to the long term vision.

There is no perfect formula for effective communication, but you can still be strategic about it.

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