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Crisis communications: Empathy is the name of the game


By Rishi Banerjee

After a two-year hiatus, the lawns of SW19 have seen the return of world-class tennis. However, the sport has come under scrutiny because of its handling of one of its biggest tennis sensations. Japanese star Naomi Osaka’s confession about her mental health and not wanting to take part in media interviews landed well outside the sport’s comfort zone, but also demonstrated the authorities’ lack of empathy and inability to handle sensitive issues around mental health. It’s also resulted in her missing out on lifting the prestigious Venus Rosewater Dish this year. It begs the question – how can businesses and large organisations better handle issues arising from mental health?

The fight to both address and better handle mental health is advancing every day. The wellbeing of the workforce or any individual connected to an official body must be a priority. As communicators, our work must carefully consider mental health, or risk having the message we intend to convey fall on deaf ears or exacerbating the issue for those that are already concerned about their mental wellbeing.

This means taking real care in the language and tone we use and constantly ensuring we are considering the impact of anxiety and stress on our audiences. Communication isn’t just one way. We must also improve our listening skills and learn to look for early signs of duress. Taking both an active and passive role in communication will ensure we offer comfort and direction.

The challenges around mental health know no caste, creed, gender or rules. This is not a black and white issue whereby we can hide behind guidelines and rulebooks and justify arbitrary decisions. It is ultimately our responsibility to act and communicate with empathy and as human beings, otherwise we put ourselves at serious risk of public reputation crises.