5 Nonverbal Crisis Communications Tips


In a crisis situation, how you deliver your message can be just as important as the content of the message itself. Whether you're facing reporters eager to pepper you with questions, or a mob of angry customers seeking redress, every move you make will be scrutinized. Your physical presence can be an effective tool for communication, but if you don't pay attention to simple physical cues, you can sink your chances of getting through a crisis without even realizing it.

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when acting as spokesperson for your brand during a crisis, courtesy of Leonard S. Greenberger, partner at Potomac Communications Group.

  • Maintain steady eye contact, whether your audience is one person or many. Any eye movement, up or down, side-to-side, sends a signal that you’re being dishonest or evasive.
  • Keep your hands visible and between your hips and shoulders. Don’t put them in your pockets or behind your back. In a high-concern, low-trust situation that signals discomfort and aggressiveness.
  • Try to remove barriers between you and your audience. Don’t sit behind your desk, or stand behind a podium. Even crossing your arms becomes a barrier and can make it harder to demonstrate empathy and honesty.
  • Dress conservatively. Crazy patterns and gaudy jewelry distract from what you’re saying. If you know what your audience will be wearing, dress at least as well, or one notch above.
  • Eat a banana. Yes, a banana. If you get nervous dealing with someone who’s angry and upset, the nutrients in a banana help calm your nerves. It may seem strange, but many performers swear by it.

To learn more about the various aspects of handling a communications crisis, see PR News’ Book of Crisis Management Strategies & Tactics, available now. 

Follow Leonard S. Greenberger and Potomac: @PCGPR

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell