Crisis Management Quotables…on How You Say It

The way it’s delivered can make or break any communication

What was it about the ancient world that led to so many great insights into human nature? We’d venture that it had a great deal to do with the fact that there were no glossy ads, TV broadcasts, Twitter campaigns or YouTube videos to help spread an idea. Instead, gathering support for something you felt passionately about, be it a new school of philosophy or a bid for power, meant getting out there and talking to the people.

“A mediocre speech supported by all the power of delivery will be more impressive than the best speech unaccompanied by such power.” — Quintilian

Quintilian lived in ancient Rome, and studied and taught rhetoric, essentially the art of argument, for most of his life, leaving him more than qualified to deliver us today’s Crisis Management Quotable.

So, what does Quintilian mean? If you have an amazing speech, can’t you just send the CEO on up to the microphone and have him read it off the prompter?

Not so much.

Despite our love of language, humans are influenced to an incredible degree by aspects beyond words. A truly excellent speaker could practically read the dictionary and keep an audience captivated, while putting Ben Stein and his famous flat affect up there would leave everyone looking at their watches or filtering out the door within minutes.

Of course, ideally, you find someone who can convey the proper emotions while also making sure your ideas get across. This means you have to think a little about who’s going to do your talking, because we’ve seen a lot incredibly smart, successful, charismatic leaders, many of whom had no problem discussing daily business in front of large groups, who either fell to pieces or were stiff as a board once they had to discuss something unpleasant.

Now you can get away with a spokesperson or skilled lower-level staffer for small crises, but when it comes to major incidents Crisis Management 101 definitely calls for someone from the C-suite. If you’re lucky you’ll already have one person in mind as you read this, but if not don’t worry. Find your best candidate, put them to work in media training sessions, and groom them to deliver the best speech possible.

The BCM Blogging Team

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