Communication is a vital task for the recovery leader at all stages of the recovery process. Use the following communication checklist, especially in the beginning of the recovery process:
  • Be direct, honest, accessible, and forthright – and be respectful in the process. If the leader is perceived as autocratic or unwilling to listen, he or she will lose credibility. If you want to influence people, be willing to be influenced.
  • Acknowledge the concerns of employees and the public. This is essential so that stakeholders believe the recovery plan addresses the important issues. 
  • Don’t make unrealistic commitments. Be realistic, but still be willing to take some risks.
  • Find and convert key influencers to your cause. The amount of influence someone has may not always correspond with their position on the organizational chart. Hearing from key influencers will encourage others to make difficult choices and take difficult actions.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. It may take a few times before a message sinks in.

Communications plan. EEarly on, the leader should develop a communications plan. The overall objectives of the communication plan are to build support for the recovery, develop trust with stakeholders, and provide transparency on the process being followed and the strategies being pursued. With that in mind, the plan should focus on answering the following questions:

  • What to communicate? Simple messages are good. Be sure to have good communicators and wordsmiths as a part of your recovery and budgeting process to help tell the story behind the numbers and to challenge financial staff to do the same. Tailor your message to the audience. Employees will want to know about impacts on their jobs and compensation. Citizens will want to know what is being done and why.
  • How to communicate? E-mail, one-on-one talks, video, blog, formal presentations, etc., noted authority on government reform, Bill Eggers (et al), recommends a public scorecard that shows cost savings and other beneficial outcomes reached to date.
  • To whom? This will be driven by the stakeholder analysis.
  • Where? Are some message better delivered out of the office? Are there times to visit someone on their own turf, rather than calling them to yours?
  • When? Time communications so stakeholders feel they are getting current information, not an after-the-fact report.

Media relations. Media attention is an important part of a financial recovery. Meet with the editorial board of the local paper to start getting the word out and put your frame on the situation. Commit to working with media and being transparent. For example, always return phone calls and refrain from providing merely “no comment” on an issue. It is unrealistic to expect that all media coverage will be positive, but these steps can help prevent it from becoming prosecutorial.

Having good communicators as part of your budgeting and financial recovery team(s) will also help make sure the budget tells a story that the media can report on.


Go on to Leadership Tasks in the Three Phases of Recovery

Return to Step 10 - Recovery Leadership