Crisis Communication in Difficult Times

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Readers,

With the difficult conditions of the past few weeks, I want to write about crisis communication with clients. Advisors, large and small, are dealing with upset clients who are fearful about their portfolios and what the future holds.

We have witnessed what not to do, which is tell people to “calm down” and minimize their worry.

The best crisis communication is to hit the issue head-on and acknowledge the outcomes. Here are five tips for managing communication:

1. Being proactive is critical. I work with many advisors and I have seen only a handful of emails come through addressing the crisis and letting the email list know what the firm is doing. While you might hope clients realize you are head-down working on their portfolios and making good decisions on their behalf, all clients hear is that nothing is happening. No news is not good news in times of crisis. No news stokes fears and lets clients think you have something to hide. Create a communication campaign to let clients know, step-by-step, what you are thinking and doing.

2. Be transparent. You don’t want to sugar-coat what’s happening, minimize the importance or tell clients it is better than it really is. Let them know you are working diligently to figure out the best approach. It’s fair to tell people these times are unprecedented and it might be day-by-day to figure out what to do. You can reiterate this is a long-game and not to focus on the daily bruising, but affirm the natural fear and concern an investor has during this time. Don’t minimize their emotional response. Let them know you respect it and appreciate it and will work hard to keep their trust in all the ways you know how.