9Compassion: Communicate With Compassion

Whether communicating with publics, media, or their employees, designated spokespersons should demonstrate appropriate levels of compassion. Such compassion includes expressing concern for those affected or at risk and an empathetic willingness to see the crisis through their eyes (Covello, 2003). This need for emotional sensitivity constitutes our eighth best practice. The expression of compassion by a crisis spokesperson is a vital characteristic that enhances messenger and message credibility (Simpson, Clegg, & Pinae Cunha, 2013). Publics respond much more positively to spokespersons who acknowledge their concerns and demonstrate understanding and compassion for any harm that may have occurred. If publics see an expression of genuine concern and empathy, they have more faith that the actions taken or recommended by the spokesperson are appropriate and in their best interest.

Despite the nearly universal support for expressing compassion in crisis situations (Simpson et al., 2013), some crisis spokespersons may be reluctant to include such expressions for fear of appearing weak or unprofessional. Moreover, some refuse to express such emotions out of concern that their words will be used against them in future litigation. These efforts to maintain pride and professionalism or legal distance are often perceived by publics as cold and uncaring (Liska, Petrun, Sellnow, & Seeger, 2012). The resulting perception of such self‐indulgence, ...

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