Crisis communication takeaways from Andrew Cuomo

New York’s governor has earned plaudits for his leadership amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mine these lessons for your own public speaking forays.

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Public relations experts and other commentators point to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 communications as an example of how leaders should speak to the public during a crisis.

The governor lacks flowery language and eloquent public speaking abilities, but his communication style helps calm the public and accurately inform audiences.

Here are five keys to his communication success:

Start with data.

Cuomo starts his press conferences with numbers. He doesn’t whitewash the data or understate the seriousness of the situation. In one recent press conference, he said New York State had 53,000 ICU beds, and health experts predicted the state would need 140,000 over the next 14-21 days. Also, he said, New York State was short roughly 30,000 ventilators to treat acute cases of COVID-19. Besides informing the public, hard numbers increase the speaker’s authority.

“At a time of crisis, people are not looking for sugar-coated reassurances that everything is fine. They need to know the facts,” says Dan Sweet, director of public relations at RP3 Agency.

Make it personal.

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