On Friday of last week, I shared a rare moment of personal reflection as I struggled with all that is happening in the world.
I like to consider myself pretty unflappable. I (personally) have seen and been through enough that you learn to take things in stride and respond as calmly and professionally as possible. But some things we are never prepared for.
We’re amid a global pandemic. There is civil unrest across our nation. People are hurting. None of it is okay.
I am also responsible for driving communication for a company I love, and a team that I’m proud to be a part of.
We’ve intentionally built a distinctive voice, a mix of straightforward candor and humor. The antidote to the stereotypical dry, boring and empty financial communication that’s so prevalent today.
So how does an advisor proceed when the world is on fire?
Ignoring it and continuing with life as “normal”, makes you sound tone deaf. Yet choose to say nothing and it looks like you’re hiding.
Some brands go all in, and it often looks like they’re trying to capitalize on other people’s misfortune. Others are afraid any comment about anything will immediately be considered a political statement. So, where does that leave us?
To be clear, I am not a crisis communications expert. There are people who go to school for years and spend their entire career in that space, and that’s not me. If that’s what you’re looking for, stop reading now.
What I am, is someone who cares. I care about my family, the community we call home, the company I work for, the nation I’m proud to live in, and the world we all share as humans.
My personal motto (which I stole from Doctor Who, yep – I’m a nerd) is “laugh hard, run fast, be kind.”
I love humor. I’m no comedian, but if you can make someone laugh when they’re having a bad day, you win. If you can make someone laugh when they’re having a good day, you win.
I think we can all agree that right now the world could use a little more joy, yet there are times when humor just doesn’t strike the right chord – this being one of them.
But kindness? Kindness is always the right message. I believe – I want to believe and I choose to believe – that each of us cares about the community in which we live, and that includes every person in that community.
When you don’t know what to say, be kind.
Be graceful. Be empathic. Be human. Start with listening. You don’t understand, you don’t agree, you can’t relate? Listen. Listen, then speak. I have learned so much about how much I have yet to learn, how much better I can do, how much work there is to be done, just from listening.
Don’t agonize over every word or try to figure what message will get the most attention. Don’t wait to speak until (you think) you have it all figured out. Just, be kind.
Not everything has to be about your new product or your commentary on the market or that funny meme you saw.
Talk about how you/your team has gotten involved in your community, volunteered or donated. Amplify the voices of others who are doing the same. Times of crisis are not about self-adulation, but an opportunity to inspire and be inspired to make a difference.
Although I’m often frustrated by social media, I am more often in awe of the good it can do, the people it can help and the way it pushes the human race forward.
Reach out to someone and tell them you’re thinking of them, that you care for them, that you’re here for them.
Kindness is always on brand.