Bimbo Banter

How To Tell People Not To Panic

  • Crisis
  • March 20, 2020
  • by Spaeth Communications


As readers of our BIMBO Memo know, convincing someone not to panic isn’t achieved by saying “Don’t panic.” This is fast becoming one of the top denial mistakes in recent history. It’s understandable. When there’s great uncertainty and potential deadly risk, the authorities recognize that panicked people rush to stores, hoard household goods and make bad decisions. Oops. Too late. The problem, as we have preached for years, is that when listeners hear a command such as “Don’t panic,” they overlook the denial and hear the opposite of what the speaker is trying to say. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, companies and news outlets have fallen into this trap. A few of the best examples we’ve seen of misguided headlines include:

In our break room is a sign, “Keep calm and walk the dog.” Despite the headlines above, we know that’s what authorities are trying to convey. But how? Spokespersons can handle the situation by saying, “We know what you’ve heard. We’re reading the same reports. And while we don’t have all the answers, and won’t for the foreseeable future, we do believe that we all need to pull together. There’s plenty of advice of what not to do—shake hands, touch your face, etc.—but let’s focus on what to do, and that’s, keep calm and use common sense. Pass these words on.”

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