Speechwriting in a Crisis


One of the jobs I held early in my communications career involved creating content for police crisis exercises. We used some pretty wild scenarios, but the organizers certainly never conjured up anything as dire and exceptional as policing in a pandemic.

And therein lies the challenge with crises. They’re hard to predict. So, does that mean there's nothing you can do to prepare? Not at all. What you can do is is bring yourself up to speed on crisis communications principles. That knowledge will give you a framework for writing effective scripts in critical situations.

Here are some suggestions for things to do:

Be clear on the core message: Help the leader you support articulate what the crisis is as well as what the he or she proposes to do about it.

Know the speaker’s reason for speaking: Is it to acknowledge the situation, provide an update, offer clarification or make an apology?

Stick to the proven facts: Double-check your information for accuracy and avoid speculation. Be aware that a lot of misinformation circulates in times of crisis.

Put the focus on people: Adopt a tone that shows respect and empathy for those caught up in the situation. Read your script aloud (as you should do as a rule anyway) to make sure you’ve struck the right chord.