With unemployment expected to exceed 7.6 percent in the U.S. and many economists now expecting the already 12-month recession to extend into 2010, situational communication is becoming more important than ever. Why?
People are stressed. And when people are already focused on security as their primary concern, they tend to react any time that security is threatened. Take the recent public flare up
between National Post technology reporter David George-Cosh and Toronto marketing consultant April Dunford on Twitter.
Dunford tweets: “Reporter to me “When the media calls you, you jump, OK!?” Why, when you called me and I’m not selling? Newspapers will get what they deserve”
George-Cosh tweets: "what the f*ck. I called you for comment two days ago. What did you expect when you called me back? Don’t post that sh*t online"
Unbelievably, it degrades from there.
At first blush, most people would conclude that Dunford handled the situation well. But reading her blog tells a different story. Since, she has followed up by berating the incident with lessons
that George-Cosh might learn and concluding the dead horse has been beaten. But not dead enough, because she continued
two days later, dubbing it "the incident."
I'm not saying George-Cosh was right. He was not. But it is also difficult to call her handling much more than baiting, especially after she followed up with something that resembles something in between smugness and over justification on her blog.
For most people, blog dramas seem challenging enough with response windows occurring over hours. On Twitter or in real time, the response requires seconds, opening up even more room for meltdowns. They are all mini-crisis situations. Treat them as such.
Evaluate the situation or event, with an emphasis on collecting all known facts. (What is this really about?)
Determine the potential impact of these facts, including public perception. (What is at risk?)
Define and synchronize messages specific to the crisis or event taking place. (What do I need to communicate to everyone listening?)
Designate a spokesperson, recognizing that the messenger is part of the message. (Am I the right person to address this?)
Collect Feedback And Adjust.
Provide for mechanisms that collect immediate feedback and adjust communication. (What do I need to do next?)
There were many opportunities for both George-Cosh and Dunford to change the communication, but neither seemed capable. The end result was a communication breakdown unrelated to what happened first. In the follow up, neither performed well.
None of this is meant to say I haven't had my share of situations that I thought I could have handled differently. Instead, consider it a reminder that a recruiter's online communication (or while taking calls from desperate people) needs to remain balanced.
Your daily success will sometimes rely on how well you can make minute-by-minute situational assessments and avoid being sucked into a self-made crisis. If you take even a minute or two to ask the questions above, you'll likely handle the situation differently. You'll also be more likely to respond instead of react.