Advice on Communicating in Crisis

September 13, 2009

Advice on Communicating in Crisis

Today’s New York Times had an interview with the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein. He was asked about lessons learned from the recent and ongoing financial crisis. Blankfein makes a clear argument for ongoing internal communications. Worth reading the entire interview but the banking CEO reiterated one of the most powerful tenents of reptuation recovery during tough times: 

“What I did more of–and then I kept doing more and  more of it as it got validated as a strategy–is that I talked to the firm very frequently. So in the last year and a half, and particularly in periods of peak stress, when people were wondering what was going on, when the press was as bad as it was, almost every day I would send a voice mail to the whole firm. I’d walk around the firm. I’d answer people’s questions. And generally this firm has a walk-around culture. But I really emphasize that.”

One of the more fascinating attributes of the Goldman culture is that they use an all-employee voice mail system to communicate.  Several years ago I wrote an article on Hank Paulson’s apology for a statement he made and I mentioned how he apologized using their  all-employee voice mail system.  I believe he felt that it would be quick, immediate and show how deep felt his apology was in his voice.  I also recall having studied communications best practices for a client and interviewed a few people at Goldman Sachs who spoke about how they were more of a voicemail than email culture.  Voicemail certainly provides the emotional and qualitative texture that email does not. More companies should consider all-employee voice mails in addition to all the newer technology such as webcasts and podcasts that we have on hand today. It requires less executive preparation and might just be the right cup of tea when morale is low and employees uncertain.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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