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The Three C's of Credibility in Crises
Your non-verbal cues may speak louder than words.
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 by Jonathan Bernstein
Bernstein Crisis Management

Jonathan BernsteinIn my media training manual (see author's box below), I have a section called "Attitude is Everything." It explains the
importance of non-verbal communication in ensuring that your audiences receive your messages effectively.

Since the last draft of that publication, I've started to
emphasize this point even more strongly while media training my clients. I was taught, back when we all still used typewriters to compose a document, that up to 80 percent of communication was non-verbal -- voice tone/quality, body language, etc. 

One more recent study, at UCLA, indicated that up to 93 percent of
communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues.

How does this relate to media interviews or public presentations during times of crisis, where spoken message delivery becomes so critical to the welfare of the organization or individual in crisis?  

I came up with a simple way to remember the non-verbal attitude which should accompany the spoken message:

The Three C's of Credibility

During a crisis, effective spokespersons must, primarily through their non-verbal cues, leave their audiences with the impression that they are:

Compassionate...Competent...and Confident

Think "Rudy Giuliani" on and after 9-11. It was his attitude, his non-verbal cues, which gave his audiences comfort. If he had delivered the same messages in a stereotypical governmental manner, the amount of fear and anxiety felt by listeners would have been dramatically higher. Instead, what they clearly felt,
for the most part, was "However horrible this situation is, Mayor Giuliani is going to get us through it, he's doing the right thing, in the right way." He actually delivered little substance, initially, because so little was known. But he won over his audience (not to mention laying the groundwork for his future ventures).

If stakeholders perceive you as Compassionate, Competent and Confident, they are far more likely to believe your messages. In fact, if you're really good at projecting the "Three C's," you can get away with some messaging errors and still win over your audience.

Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., editor of the Crisis Manager newsletter, and author of 
Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual. 

In 2005, PR News recognized him as one of 23 consultants 
nationally "who should be on the speed dial in a crisis."

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