How to be calm in a crisis

I really enjoy crisis communication and I believe my passion for it increased profoundly after the National Conference session, “From the Calm before the Storm to Storming Crisis.” We listened to three speakers, two from government agencies and one from a crisis communications agency. After hearing about doing crisis communication in the government I was amazed at how calm they could be in certain situations.

Eliot Brenner is the Director in the Office of Public Affairs for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He described crisis communication as balancing the risks and managing the risks at the same time. Nuclear communication is very difficult because he is constantly talking about what he can’t see, radiation. I honestly couldn’t imagine how he does his job.

Some great points were made including talk to reporters and develop a relationship before you have a crisis. Building relationships is crucial. He also said to communicate clearly and boil it down to words that your mother could understand. I loved this advice because in his severely complicated field I can see how important it would be to make sure people knew what you were talking about.

Laura Brown was the second speaker and she is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs in the Federal Aviation Administration. She started as a reporter focusing on airlines and she then moved into public affairs. I thought this was a great transition because she basically already knew what she was talking about.

She made some great points and talked about how she handled thousands of reporters phone calls at once. She set up a phone bridge. It was a very simple idea that ended up working wonders. She also said to develop relationships in every possible direction because you never know when you will need someone.

Hearing about her experience was great. I am always intrigued when I hear the behind the scenes information. It encouraged me that it is okay to start at the bottom of one industry and maybe one day you can work your way up in a different but similar job.

Richard Levith was the final speaker in the session. He is the President and CEO of Levick Strategic Communications, LLC. He was such a simple communicator but made very interesting points. I knew that he had to be amazing at what he did when I saw how calmly and clearly he talked to the audience.

He gave three rules for young people:

  1. Always have a pen and paper.
  2. Act like a Buddhist: Seek to understand, and then be understood.
  3. Have the abundance mentality: half of what people want in a crisis is a steady hand.

His rules were simple. Crisis communication should be equally as simple. Levith said to read everything, have an opinion and be passionate.

I loved his style of communication and putting everything into points. It made my notes clear and I felt like I came away with something.

Crisis communication seems to be a challenging job and not everyone is fit to do it. I think this session inspired me to go and get a few years of experience and then see if I still want to do crisis communication.

Maria Mayorga, Special Events Director


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