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1 Tip for Better Communication | Viva La Brand

I’m often asked by clients how to communicate news, good and bad, to employees, customers, and partners. The answer can be summarized in one sentence: be honest, and true to who you are.

Two recent events are great examples of the power of being candid with your stakeholders.

Real Life Example #1: The NFL

When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field a couple of weeks ago during Monday Night Football, National Football League executives found themselves in an unprecedented crisis.

As more than 20 million people watched on live television, NFL executives had to quickly decide whether to continue playing the game, which is common practice after an injury, or stop.

The NFL faced an audience skeptical about its ethics. The league has faltered through several memorable controversies.

After intense discussion among NFL leadership and coaches, the game was postponed. Later, the game was cancelled, even though it had significant playoff implications.

The NFL’s strong response to this unprecedented tragic event is an example of an action that strengthened its relationship with its stakeholders.

Real Life Example #2: Graza Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Graza is a startup that makes olive oil in squeezable bottles. However, this holiday season they had huge errors in packaging and delays in shipping, and thus a customer crisis. Andrew Benin, the CEO of Graza, wrote an 835-word email apology and sent it to 35,544 people without sharing a draft with any colleagues or proofreading it!

Mr. Benin felt compelled to apologize personally for the start-up’s holiday delivery debacle.

Some Graza customers were disappointed when their holiday gifts arrived late and badly packaged. So, Mr. Benin contacted everyone who had ordered Graza’s olive oils in the previous 60 days to ask for a second chance. He apologized and offered a discount on future orders.

Mr. Benin’s email contained phrases not often included in a CEO’s message such as “learning from our mistakes”, and “we should have been more transparent” about how certain variety packs were being shipped.

Mr. Benin implemented two leadership principles described in one of my favorite reads of 2022, Extreme Ownership by Navy Seals Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin. One principle, labeled ‘Extreme Ownership’, is about the leader bearing all responsibility for the success and failure of any team or organization. The second principle, titled ‘Decisiveness amid Uncertainty’, talks about the combat leader who never has a complete picture of the enemy’s actions or reactions, yet must quickly act. Mr. Benin took responsibility for Grava’s missteps and was decisive and quick about the response.

Within minutes of hitting “send”, Mr. Benin received nearly 900 replies to his email. Customers wrote:

“Thanks for the honesty. I wish more businesses did the same.”

“I won’t be using the discount, but I will be reordering.”

“These messages go a long way.”

The NFL and Graza were confronted with crises. Their communications, which were honest and true to their brands, garnered tremendous support from their communities. It’s simple but not easy.

Need help communicating with your community?
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