Recent acts of violence in the United States and the attempt of violence has really rocked many of us. I wish I could look you in the eye and tell every CEO who’s watching this video and every business owner that you won’t have to go through that, that that kind of incident would never happen on your doorstep, that it only happens somewhere else. I can’t.
Like it or not, and for reasons that we can debate all day long, these type of incidents seem to be more pervasive. Chances are, you will have to deal with it, or you’re certainly going to know somebody who has to deal with it, directly or indirectly. These events are littered with emotional baggage. At best case, people are going to be anxiety-ridden, wondering if they’re next, wondering what would’ve happened if the perpetrator would’ve been successful. At worst case scenario, it’s horrific. At the outset, you have an obligation to be the person who can communicate effectively, clearly, and calmly.
First off, be sure to coordinate with law enforcement and other authorities about what to say and what not to say, but when you do say something related to the incident, keep strictly to the facts. It’s not even enough just to stay with the facts. You’ll have to work on what facts you can publicly disclose and which ones you can’t. You could, in fact, impede on law enforcement activities. So, make sure that, before you state something, you coordinate with law enforcement as to when you can do that, how much you can disclose, and who would be the right spokesperson for that.
Second, and probably the most important, don’t under any circumstances disclose the names of people who died or were injured in the attack until you can confirm with absolute certainty that the next of kin have been notified. I can speak to this personally. You don’t under any circumstance want a loved one, family member, or friend finding out that their son, daughter, husband, wife, mom, or dad were killed via a television breaking news alert or a social media post.
And third, show empathy and action for those who are affected by the attack. That not only includes those who are directly affected by those who are dead or were injured, but also think about it in broader context to partners, investors, stakeholders, and other people that have some sort of stack in your business. They’re going to be affected by this as well, and your steady hand and steady guidance in the early stage will help them at a time in which they really need your support.
Early moments like this are riddled with chaos, and just trying to get a sense of everything that’s going on is almost impossible. You run the real risk of over-speculating on something that will wind up not being completely true or not true at all. I hope you never have to deal with it, but I can’t look you in the eye and tell you that you won’t. It’s better to be prepared than not.