The constant analysis by media and general population alike as to how different companies, organisations and politicians are coming across as they make public statements around Covid19 shows the importance of tone in this time of national health, personal and economic crisis.

Who is statesmanlike, who is kind, who is compassionate, who is heartless or selfish, who appears to be in control, and who do we trust? Where are we mentally promising to spend our money once this is over, and which organisations are we blacklisting?

So much of this is down to tone, and as communications professionals and the spokespeople we work with who need to deliver these messages, it’s vital we get it right. This includes senior executives as well as anyone from operational teams including HR, finance and facilities management, and of course the marketing and communications teams who are writing the copy and coaching those delivering the message.

A regularly referenced UCLA study showed that gestures count for 55% of the impact a speaker has on an audience, while tone of voice makes up 38%. That means that only 7% of the impact created is down to the actual words used.

In reality, most companies will be using a mixture of written, recorded and live communications, so body language, tone and words are ALL important.

Written communications are generally coming in the form of email, social media and website updates, as well as ‘all company’ letters.

Live or recorded communications include tools like Zoom for virtual meetings (formal or informal), media interviews, and pre-recorded videos distributed via social media.

Most of the advice we’re giving to our clients is to aim to convey the following in their tone, choice of words and body language:

  • Show empathy
  • Convey a sense of stability
  • Speak plainly to avoid confusion
  • Remember that much of your audience won’t have all the information you have about the full impact of the organisational decisions made, so give context but avoid patronizing them
  • Think and speak in terms of ‘we’ not ‘you’
  • Be authentic

Whether you’re working on employee communications, updates to your business continuity messaging or updating customers on which services you can or can’t offer them in present times, the above should all put your company in the ‘best practice’ bucket, rather than the ‘poor communication’ one.