Effective communication in a time of crisis

During this crisis, we’ve seen the rise of all sorts of communications and communicators. Let me highlight some outstanding communicators (so far) around the world. I’m sure there are others too so do leave their names in the comments section.

Emma Theofilus

Rishi Sunak

Kojo Oppong Nkrumah

Angela Merkel

Andrew Cuomo

Jacinda Arden

Dr Anthony Fauci

So, what are the hallmarks of an effective and credible communicator? In this post (first in a series) I look at simplicity.

Use simple language

Effective and credible communicators use simple language. And simple language is usually short. In one of his memos, Winston Churchill “urged government administrators to replace long “woolly phrases” with single conversational words, pointing out that brevity equals clarity and that directness makes things easier to understand (HBR, April 17, 2020)

Remember that in a crisis, there is a lot going on and people are looking for clear and credible information to help them act. When a message is complex and unclear, people become confused and unable to decipher what action the communicator is looking for.

The clearer and more concise you are, the better your chances of persuading people to take action.

Consider these two messages:

 “Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Save Lives.”


 “For the preservation of public health and safety, I hereby order all residents not engaged in essential activities that impact critical infrastructure to remain in their residences in order to mitigate the propagation of the coronavirus and to minimize morbidity and mortality.”

Which of the two messages would persuade you to act?

(Credits: HBR)

First published on LinkedIn