November 25, 2020

Crafting Effective Response Communication

Guatama Buddha once said, “Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond.”

This sentiment is the foundation for the strategy our team developed for brands and organizations to respond to “national signal events.” A national signal event is an event that negatively impacts a marginalized group of people and captures the news cycle. The murder of George Floyd and the California Wildfires would both be considered national signal events of 2020.

In 2020, our CEO was asked to present ideas on how healthcare DEI leaders may respond to national signal events impacting their communities. The invitation came from the healthcare chair of CEO Action’s healthcare group and Penn State Health’s VP and Chief Diversity Officer.

The first step to crafting a response to a national signal event is to simply look around. Is your organization geographically located in the affected community? Does responding to the affected community demographic align with your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mission? Your response should serve a community – brands and organizations aren’t newscasters. For example, if an event takes place in another state and doesn’t have any relevance to an organization’s mission, it’s unnecessary to respond. A hospital in Missouri doesn’t need to comment on wildfires in California.

Organizations need to maintain their credibility with the general public. A response to a major event needs to be backed up by some subject matter expertise. IBM set an excellent example of this in their response to George Floyd’s murder in 2020. IBM announced that it would no longer offer or develop facial recognition technology on June 9, 2020. Rather than offer empty words of support, they uplifted the Black community and used their position to truly make a statement – and draw a line in the sand. Think about ways that your organization is uniquely positioned to make a difference.

Lastly, if you talk the talk, walk the walk. Brands need to offer tangible resources in their responses to major events. In 2021, empty words do nothing. People are surrounded by conversations about covid, race relations, the environment, and more. It’s tough to grab anyone’s attention without something to offer. Organizations can offer educational resources, financial support, supplies, and even mental health support if applicable.

A memorable response from an organization must contain the three elements discussed above to be successful. Community engagement, subject matter expertise, and resources are the three keys to a meaningful public statement. Considering how these elements work together will take your communication from a reaction to a response.

Our CEO, Yareli Esteban, has presented this framework to an audience of over 600 in the CEO Action Organization. Strategar also digs deeper into these principles to provide our clients with the tools they need to respond to crises within and outside of their organizations.

If you or your organization is interested in a walkthrough of the model and how this can be applied to your organization, please contact us at to set-up a one on one with our team.


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