You must not wait until you are asked about the situation to come up with something to say. Nor should you let critics interpret the situation in such a way that it undermines confidence in your leadership or your organization.
Create a “narrative.” A narrative is essentially a story about a situation or event. A narrative interprets the situation or event, presents a point of view, and frames the debate.
Here’s a checklist for narratives.
*Be sympathetic and friendly. In movies and in novels, we lose interest in the story if the characters are not sympathetic.
*Be reasonable. Provide a rationale for what has been done or what is planned.
*Anticipate objections. Do forward thinking about the questions and objections that you are likely to encounter. However, don’t be so creative that you provide your critics with objections that they would not think of themselves.
*Describe what you expect or hope for. Do you expect any return on the investment at all, etc.?
*Depict expected benefits. Will the organization be stronger? Have your actions added value, saved money, etc.?
*Appeal to known beliefs, values, and emotions. Skilled communicators appeal to a group’s sense of fair-play, willingness to sacrifice, belief in the future, etc. A well-known example is Churchill narrative during the darkest days of the struggle with Nazi Germany: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
*Raise the stakes in your narrative. That is what Lincoln did at Gettysburg when in his narrative he stated that the Civil War was about the future of people’s government: “That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” For Lincoln the war was more than putting down a rebellion, more than saving the Union, more than freeing the slaves—as awesomely important as those goals were. In Lincoln’s narrative, the Civil War was about the future of people’s government, the future of mankind.