In today’s episode with communications consultant and trainer, Joanna Piros, we’ll explore how a leader’s desire for perfection creates missed opportunities for authentic and timely communication. Joanna shares 3 critical steps for leaders who want to lead with heart during a crisis. Plus, Joanna shares a pivotal personal story of speaking up for her family at a young age. 

If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit the follow button on the Spotify player (• • •) and share it with your friends and colleagues. ~ Big Love, April

00:14 – Introduction
01:05 – How business leaders can endear themselves to others with open and honest communication in a crisis 
02:19 – Communicate frequently 
05:04 – Make it about your audience 
07:09 – Give yourself permission to show up with vulnerability   
08:16 – You can’t persuade people without trust
10:54 – How to speak on camera  
12:08 – Joanna’s personal evolution    
12:51 – Curating stories to connect with audiences 
13:46 – Thrive or survive depends on your strategy
15:24 – Connect with Joanna Piros 

About Joanna Piros

Joanna Piros has coached and trained over five-thousand, nine-hundred and forty-three people to light up a room, inspire teams or get that job or promotion. Joanna is a trainer, coach and consultant who is passionate about your success.

After many years as a journalist in radio and television, Joanna teaches public speaking, communication skills and media relations, in a variety of settings. She work with individuals and with groups to create customized workshops. Her client list includes every industry and profession from senior executives, cabinet ministers, mayors, celebrities and NHL draft picks to scientists, lawyers and exotic dancers. 

Perhaps you’ve been passed over for plum projects, tanked in the interview or received performance reviews that question your presentation and communication skills.

Joanna can be all yours through her online coaching platform that makes it quick, easy and inexpensive to get professional feedback on your next important conversation.  

Great speakers aren’t born; they are made by coaches that turn real people into TED talkers. No matter how anxious you are in the spotlight, or good you are in front of an audience, Joanna Piros can help you go bigger and get better. Be a compelling leader. Get the dream job. Inspire action. (Source: https://www.joannapiros.com/about/)

Thank you for tuning in to the Leader Lounge Community podcast. If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit follow and share with your friends and community.

Links To Additional Resources

Joanna Piros’s website: https://www.joannapiros.com/  

Joanna’s free course: ACE Q&A Preparation Game will help you dominate your next interview

Joanna Piros Free Consultation: unbouncepages.com/joanna-piros

Joanna Piros LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joannapiros/

Joanna Piros on YouTube

Joanna Piros on Twitter: https://twitter.com/joannapiros

Joanna Piros on Facebook: /https://www.facebook.com/PirosPresentationCoach/

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April Qureshi’s leadership website: https://aprilqureshi.com

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Episode Transcription

Leader Lounge Community (00:02):

Hello, and welcome to the Leader Lounge community, where great leaders bridge the gap between people and performance. I’m your host, April Qureshi.

April Qureshi (00:14):

On today’s episode of the Leader Lounge Community podcast. I’m speaking with Joanna Piros. Joanna is a communication strategies expert, and over 25 years, she’s helped thousands of athletes, business executives, teachers, and civil servants to own their message, own the stage, and own the room. And today, Joanna is going to share with us some simple tips for communicating during a crisis. Welcome, Joanna.

Joanna Piros (00:46):

It’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you.

April Qureshi (00:49):

Yeah. And so today we’re talking about strategic communication and how honest and open leadership during a crisis we’ll endear your employees and your customers to you.

Joanna Piros (01:02):

Yes.

April Qureshi (01:04):

You wanna speak a little bit about that?

Joanna Piros (01:05):

I would love to speak about that. So here’s what I’m kind of seeing in the world over my career as a consultant and a trainer and in public relations and, and strategic communications. I’ve certainly worked with clients in crisis, whether it’s chain of custody, tainted food products, whether it’s derailments or oil spills human rights complaints, all sorts of things that the fall organizations. And the thing is that none of us have ever lived in a world where every organization and company is in crisis. But that’s the world we’re living in now. So what I tried to do is sit back and say, okay, what have we learned from crisis communications, best practices over time that’s relevant today? And conveniently, luckily, there’s a lot, there’s a lot that’s actually relevant that people can use.

April Qureshi (01:50):

So, and

Joanna Piros (01:50):

You’re gonna say like, what <laugh>,

April Qureshi (01:53):

Well, you mentioned to me that we must be communicating frequently. And so, you know, what’s the importance of communicating frequently? And what should we be saying? Because, you know, when we’re in crisis, the mind kind of goes, ah, I need to do something as leader. We wanna help and we wanna do, do things for our staff, our people, our communities, but how can we be strategic about the frequency and, and the message that we’re sharing with people?

Joanna Piros (02:19):

So this is one of the things that we’ve learned over time with crisis communications, is that in a crisis, the attempt to make your communication perfect means that you’re missing the opportunity. And the opportunity is one that your folks need to hear from you, and they need to hear from you now, and they need to hear from you frequently, because everybody right now is kind of, well, we’re not so much in panic stations anymore, but we’re still in a, a state of fear and anxiety because we don’t know how long this is gonna last. We don’t know how long our businesses can sustain in, in this environment. So being authentic, being compassionate, being vulnerable, telling people, you know what, we’re doing the best we can. Here’s what we’ve done so far, here’s what we would, we wanna check in on you. So perfection is the enemy of action in this particular case.

(03:04):

And I believe a lot of leaders sit back and say, well, it has to be perfect. If I’m going to shoot a video, I can’t just shoot it on my phone and throw it out there because it won’t look professional. We don’t care about that right now. We wanna hear who you are. And I think there’s some excellent examples. I know this is a global meeting, but certainly here in British Columbia, Dr. Bonnie Henry, who is the chief medical officer, provincial medical officer, she has become kind of the poster child of the way you communicate in this crisis. She’s close to tears occasionally when things are going sideways. She’s calming, she’s rational, she’s unflappable. and that’s kind of, that’s what we want from our leaders right now. We don’t want, here’s what we don’t want. We don’t want people using this opportunity to sell to us.

(03:47):

And that’s why I thought, if I’m gonna pivot and promote my services, I’ve gotta do them on a pay as you can or a free basis. This is not the time to be selling people. This is a time to be supporting people. And if you are a CEO or a leader and you are trying your best to pivot your business to survive this catastrophe, you need some help. So reach out and get some help. So, you know what, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to say it. there, there’s lots of easy ways to do it. You don’t have to talk to me, have someone sit down with you and say, okay, so April, tell me how yours conducting your business. And out of that, you’ll get some fantastic messaging because it’ll be coming from the heart. most people, when they sit down in front of the camera, it’s not coming from the heart. So use somebody else to ask you questions, and then when you answer them, the messages will be genuine and authentic.

April Qureshi (04:34):

Yeah. So creating a message that’s coming from the heart and is authentic. And so, you know, when, when you, when I look at all the work that you’ve done you know, provincial and municipal governments retail clothing outlets and big-name restaurants, what’s, what’s the, what remains the same in a communication message, no matter the size or the, or the industry, the size of the organization or the industry that they’re in?

Joanna Piros (05:04):

It has to be about the audience. That has to be, the first question you ask yourself is, who am I talking to and what do they need from me right now? And often what we do is we think, who am I talking to and what do I want to push out in their direction? Sometimes if you’re lucky, those things overlap and what they want is what you wanna say. But lots of times you have to start with, who are these people? Where are they right now? What are they afraid of? What are they experiencing? And it’s pretty easy to tell right now because we’re all in the same boat. We’ve all got that same insecurity, some of us more so than others. So the first question is, who is it that you need to communicate with to do whatever it is you wanna achieve?

(05:41):

If it’s about business continuity, if it’s about making sure that you will st have staff when your business comes back online what do you need to say to those people? Because where are they at right now? What do they need to hear from you? I just worked with a group of CEOs in a virtual workshop from Alberta, and some great best practices were shared, and one of them was the president of the organization. The CEO started making calls to some of the people that they had laid off, and at the same time, he had a sales manager start phoning some of their major clients. Not to sell, but just to say, how are you? Is there anything we can do for you? That’s it. That was it. So that’s, so the communication now is very different. It’s marketing in a way, but it’s marketing compassion, it’s selling compassion, it’s giving it back.

April Qureshi (06:27):

Yeah. And it’s bringing the human element back into the equation, right? Because so, so many times in business, yeah, we like, you know, of course we wanna make money, and so that we can all thrive and survive and get our message out there. But, you know, at the same time, what’s standing out for me in all these conversations that I’m having with all these amazing leaders is that, you know, we’re connecting to something that’s bigger than just, you know, the business of whatever we’re in. It’s, you know, it’s connecting on values and it’s connecting to a bigger vision. And so how does that play into the type of work that you do with, with organizations and leaders?

Joanna Piros (07:09):

It, it’s, it’s an extension of what I’ve been doing with executive development, leadership development for probably 30 odd years through various venues. And it, it’s giving people permission to be themselves. So often people in authority positions, people in, in significant roles feel that if they give away a little bit too much about themselves and their own insecurities and their vulnerabilities, they lose authority and they lose credibility and people won’t respect them. And in fact, the opposite is true. we’ve seen that in some of the leadership. The more personal and the more public it is, the more it resonates with us. so really this, this environment allows me to reiterate that same message to my clients to say, we want to know who you are because how can we trust you or have a relationship with you if you don’t tell us who you really are.

(07:59):

 there’s a great example, you’ll notice this because it’s from our own community. We have two grocery stores in this town, both of whom have been very active in social media, in, in posting on Instagram and Facebook and, and letting people know what’s going on. But very different style. One is very personal coming from the owner, and he makes mention of people by name and he talks about his wife’s birthday and all that sort of thing. And the other one is very kind of corporate marketing driven, beautiful photographs that I believe have come from somewhere else as opposed to just the quick and dirty in your store, here’s what we’re doing, here’s what’s happened. The shelves broken the delivery van. And so all of those plants that were coming in are, were destroyed. Very different styles. And I personally, I think the one that resonates more is the one that’s very personal. It’s written directly to us as the audience, and it’s coming from the heart. it’s a very different style, not to criticize, but different approaches.

April Qureshi (08:50):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and it’s interesting because when we’re, when we’re speaking, we think, think that we’re speaking to a crowd of people. Like, you know, when we share this summit with, with our audience you know, it’s gonna be a group of people listening in, but what we’re really doing is speaking to each individual and connecting through the heart. And so what happens when we do that with like, what changes in, in the, not only in the conversation, but in the relationship, what changes when we connect that way?

Joanna Piros (09:24):

I believe that trust is incredibly important. You can’t persuade someone to do something if they don’t trust your motives or they don’t trust you. So when we speak from the heart and when we speak to people on an individual basis, we are actually building that kind of trust. You act. You remind me of a very funny story. When I first started as a television reporter and I went out to cover my very first story and do my very first standup, you know, the microphone, my first standup, my camera operator at Ted Wong, he said a fabulous thing to me. He said, so here’s the first thing I have to tell you about doing standups. Don’t think about talking to that huge audience that watches the show. Think about how they are consuming it one person at a time watching the tv, which is kind of exactly what you just said, is, you know, let’s not talk to people as if it’s the board, this big collective, let’s try to think about them individually. Where are they? one of the, the tricks that I teach people is right away use the word you. As soon as you use the word you in your communication, it makes it clear that you are talking about someone else. So lots of times you hear people say taxpayers, clients, customers, stakeholders, just say you. It makes it much more much more of a connection. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, quick, quick trick.

April Qureshi (10:34):

Yeah, yeah, I like that. And so, you know, if you’re a leader or you know, a business leader or organizational leader an individual leader doing a solo entrepreneurship and you’ve never been on video before, what’s the first thing that you tell people to help them bring out that inner performer?

Joanna Piros (10:54):

Well, and that’s the thing. That’s where the, the difference between actually performing on camera and having someone ask you questions so that you can just speak to that human being. I think for anyone who’s not comfortable on camera, who hasn’t been raised on camera, that’s gonna be your best tip, is have someone sit behind the camera, behind the, whatever you’re using to record and look at that person, look at their face and answer their questions. It’s gonna be so much better than you trying to speak woodenly to the camera. and worse yet, the CEO messages that we’ve all seen online where they’re clearly reading from a teleprompter and the eyes are going back and forth, that the words don’t resonate cuz they’re not there, they’re just sitting there reading something that someone wrote and handed to them. So don’t be that guy.

April Qureshi (11:35):

<laugh>. Yeah, that’s great advice. and so you told me of a story about, you know, you were the first child in your family, your immigrant family to learn how to speak English. And so you were that advanced scout, as you said for your parents. Yeah. you know, making phone calls to the local auto shop, you know, to make appointments for your parents. And so how has that like, shaped who you are today? Like you’ve been in television and video for, for decades now? How has that shaped who you are today?

Joanna Piros (12:08):

My sense of the evolution of all of this is that because I was the first one to learn the language, I had to be the storyteller on behalf of my parents. Not obviously not my younger siblings because they were, you know, born and started speaking English. But I had to help my parents tell their stories. So I was like their interpreter. And when I went into news, I realized I’m doing the same thing. I’m interviewing people and I am helping them tell their story and, and shaping it in, in the context of news. And after leaving news, I’m still doing the same thing. I’m coaching people to be more themselves, to tell the story, to find the stories that they wanna tell. That’s where people get stuck. It’s sometimes it’s not even the performance, it’s the, oh my God, I don’t have a story.

(12:51):

Of course you do. Of course you do. We all have stories. It’s a matter of curating those stories with the audience in mind and then practicing performing those stories, telling them in a compelling way that that’s relevant to other people. Cuz if you’re not, if people don’t see the relevance and the message that you are delivering, they don’t have time to listen to the rest of it. They’ll, they’ll start thinking about something else or they’ll get on their phone. so you, you’ve gotta be relevant and you’ve gotta engage people emotionally. That’s absolutely critical, especially right now because we’re already so emotional.

April Qureshi (13:21):

Yeah, that’s amazing. And so what else do, what else do leaders have to be aware of as far as making their communications stand out during this crisis? And maybe it’s, sorry to interrupt, but maybe it’s like, not to the customers in particular, but maybe just to the employees or, you know, what, what else needs to be said here?

Joanna Piros (13:46):

So part of being strategic is figuring out what do I need to do? So as we were saying earlier on, everybody is at a different place. Some businesses are absolutely thriving because they are in a situation where what they have is what everybody needs right now. Other businesses have closed their doors altogether, others are on a limited basis. Others are trying to reinvent themselves. So everybody’s in a different place. And you have to stop and say, where is my business at right now? What is it that I want to achieve? Probably we wanna survive. We want to again, be financially healthy, economically healthy at some point down the road. Okay, who do I need to communicate with to ensure that that happens? And in many cases, it will be your employees, it’ll be the ones that are still working for you or the ones that you’ve laid off.

(14:26):

How, how are you gonna communicate with them and keep them in the tent so that when things improve, they’ll be there for you. So you have to decide, who do I need the most? Who do I need to be talking to now? What do I know about them? How can I help them? What can I, what can I give them of value? What information can I, can I send them? and it might be something as simple as just being on, on top of all of the financial programs that have been announced to support people in, in whatever jurisdiction you’re living in. Maybe you are the one that calls up those employees and says, I know we had to lay you off, but are you aware about this? Cause it’s surprising how many people still don’t know what they’re entitled to in terms of supports during the shutdown down.

April Qureshi (15:10):

And Joanna, if there’s if, if our listeners today wanted to find out more about the work that you do in strategic communications, particularly in a crisis, where can they find out more about your work?

Joanna Piros (15:24):

The easiest thing is probably to go to my website, which is just www.joannapiros.com. you can google my name and the first thing that will come up will be the International Movie database. So you can ignore that unless you wanna see all the movies and TV shows I’ve been in. And then you’ll probably see reference to my website. So I’m easy to find, Piros is an unusual name. It’s not that difficult to find me online, and I’m always happy to, to chat with anybody. No obligation. As I say, it’s, it just isn’t a time to be selling services. This is the time to be providing support and I’m happy to do that for anybody.

April Qureshi (15:56):

Yeah. And I know that you supported me. So Joanna and I have known each other for quite a number of years, and I did my first talk it was like Ted’s style talk back in 2016. And Joanna helped me you know, craft a message that was authentic and put myself there out there. And, you know, I look back on those days and, and Joanna was so caring and how do I say Gentle <laugh> with me during those times. And so I highly recommend you give Joanna a call check at our website. And Joanna, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your insights on authentic communication in a crisis.

Joanna Piros (16:39):

My pleasure. Thank you.

Leader Lounge Community (16:42):

Thank you for tuning in to the Leader Lounge Community podcast. If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit follow and share with your friends and community. Until next time, I’m April Qureshi. Bye for now.

Originally broadcast in May 2020 during the Lead From Within Global Leadership Summit at the onset of the global pandemic. My purpose for republishing is that the value of the conversations with leading experts from around the globe is still relevant and will continue to be a touchstone for empowering business and community leaders with innovation and compassion during challenging times.