Déjà Vu

Some things – like gasoline shortages – you don’t want to relive.

I was a newspaper reporter in Maryland during the 1979-80 oil crises when we fumed in long gasoline lines. Tempers flared and we worried about finding the next gallon of gas. This week’s out-of-service gas pumps and “where did you find gas?” queries brought back buried memories.

Today, I live and work in Georgia – where ransomware attack victim Colonial Pipeline is headquartered – and history is seeming to repeat itself. Despite warnings by authorities to remain calm, panicked motorists – many of whom may have been COVID-19 toilet paper hoarders – are rushing to top off tanks and gasoline containers. The phrase, “restez calme,” didn’t work for my junior high school French teacher, and it doesn’t seem to be effective now.

How should you communicate without adding fuel to the fire?

Be Human

Express empathy and acknowledge emotions. Recognize that people feel anxious, especially since they have lived through COVID-19 shortages.

Be Concise

Deliver brief and timely updates. Avoid industry jargon. Be upfront about what you know and don’t know. People want answers about when they can expect gasoline to flow again at the pumps.

Be Competent

Show how you are working to resolve the situation. Share a consistent message across all communications channels. Everyone wants assurances that life as we know it will return to normal.

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