Wherever you are on the planet, we’re living in particularly challenging times – AND in particularly challenging communication times.
 
There are ever-new ways that things can go seriously wrong at a global level which require delicate communication in scary territory.
 
With outbreaks of the Covid-19 strain of the Corona Virus in so many parts of the world, the number of things to make us nervous, worried and frightened – and to have to communicate about on behalf of our organisations – has rocketed.
 
As you can see from this Corona-focussed front page, even those behind 007 James Bond are having to take drastic action!

 

 
 
Whether you’re personally alarmed that you and yours might catch the latest version of the Corona Virus – or whether you suspect the authorities and the news media are over-reacting to the threat –  do take care with your communications… as with all emotionally-charged topics.
 

 

When you need to communicate on anything that relates to threatening issues, it’s helpful to think ahead about how your audience may react.
 
This especially applies to any communication challenges where your audience may already be in a stressed state, or could be thrown into one when they hear what you have to tell them.
 
Good planning, preparation and practice should apply whether you’re making an announcement or answering tough questions which arise on behalf of your organisation.
 
My advice, in line with my guidance on all communication challenges, is to start your planning with your audience members at the centre of your concerns – whether you intend to connect with them face-to-face, on the phone or through the internet.
 
Try to imagine how they’re feeling before you compose what you’re going to say.
 
Then take care in working on your content, structure and delivery style.
 
When the facts allow, given the potentially unsettling nature of Covid-19, it’s ideal to think about conveying a message that’s as reassuring as possible in the circumstances.

 

 
 
You will presumably want to avoid alarming your audience unnecessarily – and so choosing positive rather than negative words where possible can help make what you say sound more reassuring.
 
Conversely you won’t want to be underplaying the importance of whatever you have to say.
  
If you’re not a medical expert yourself, then it’s wise to quote the sources of any scientific information upon which your announcements or answers are based.
 
This helps underline the credibility of your message.
 
Identification of your sources enables your audience members the opportunity to double-check anything that they may have doubts about.

 

ON UPSETTING TOPICS, TALK TO THE HEART BEFORE THE HEAD

 

Excellent communication involves getting the balance right between your factual content and your emotional content.
 
This is something we’ve been working on in the sessions I’ve been running on giving great answers over the past couple of weeks in the United Kingdom and in Malta.
 

 

The sessions have, not surprisingly, focused on some serious aspects of the latest global health crisis in both countries and beyond. 

 

 
 
One vital guideline when addressing matters with an emotional impact, that you talk to the heart before talking to the head.
 
So always put your concerns about what your audience members are experiencing right up front before going into necessary informational details.
 
In training people to communicate on matters to do with Covid-19 and other worrying challenges, it’s always helpful to test out what you say before you announce it.
 
I suggest you run what you’re proposing to say past other senior members of your team and get their input before making any vital announcement – or before stepping into the spotlight to answer questions on the subject.
 
Communications-boosting training sessions can help you get your announcements and your answers spot on.
As part of this you may well end up seeking to direct or nudge people to do certain things differently from what they normally do.
 
For example, the British Government – in line with advice its received from the scientific community – is trying to get everyone to wash their hands more effectively.
 
They want you to wash your hands for longer – and to include the backs of your hands, your thumbs and between your fingers.
 
In fact, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team say it should take all the time it requires to sing happy birthday twice!

 

 
At the same time, you may be seeking to ensure people don’t over-react to whatever you or others say.
 
Planning, preparation and practising before you do so always helps you to do it better.
 

SEEING YOURSELF BACK CAN HELP YOU GET IT RIGHT

 
A video camera operator can be involved to help you look back over what you’re planning and how you look and sound exactly right when you convey it.

 

This also gives insights into how what you say will come across to others.
 
Watching the playbacks and hearing the critiques can guide you towards any necessary adjustments to get your content, structure and delivery style as close as possible to being pitch perfect.
 
If you need guidance on conveying information on an emotional subject in the right way, feel free to get in touch to discuss help on getting things exactly right.
 
Communications-boosting sessions can be run one-to-one, at away days and at conferences.
 
Sessions can be run in person and – when distance and health concerns are a challenge – they can be conducted via internet link or on the phone.
 
The range of communications-boosting options is set out at:
 
http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/michael-dodd-services/
 

AN OPTIMISTIC AUSTRALIAN PERSPECTIVE – IF YOU NEED IT!

 
If you’re hampered by having too many pessimistic voices around you and you need a bit of perspective, some optimism drawn from Australian culture may help!
 
The poem below – about things going wrong and how they tend to eventually pass – was published by the Australian bush poet, John O’Brien, 99 years ago.
 
It focuses on a fictional pessimist of Irish descent living in the Australian outback called Hanrahan.
 
Whenever anything bad is in prospect – as it often is in the Australian bush –  Hanrahan can be relied upon to declare “We’ll all be rooned”… with “rooned” being the Irish/Outback pronunciation of “ruined”.
 

 

John O’Brien was the pen name of the poetic Catholic priest, P J Hartigan.

 

 
 
If you’d like “Said Hanrahan” sung to you in a suitably gloomy tone, you can get that joy here:

 

 

If it helps, you can listen to two verses aloud every time you wash your hands.
 
And make sure that you concentrate on washing between your fingers as you listen!

“Said Hanrahan” 

by John O’Brien
 

“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

“It’s looking crook,” said Daniel Croke;
“Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.”

“It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

“The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o’-Bourke
They’re singin’ out for rain.

“They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
“And all the tanks are dry.”
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

“There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I came down to Mass.”

“If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak –
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If rain don’t come this week.”

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

“We want an inch of rain, we do,”
O’Neil observed at last;
But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
To put the danger past.

“If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

In God’s good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o’-Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”

And stop it did, in God’s good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”