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Crisis Communications Expert Evaluates Swine Flu Spokesman

Crisis communications and media training specialist, Carmine Gallo, says CDC spokesman, Richard Besser, should serve as a role model for others.

Pleasanton, CA, May 02, 2009 --( In his Webzine,, crisis communications specialist, Carmine Gallo, evaluates the U.S Government's chief swine flu spokesperson.

As a crisis communications and media training specialist, Gallo writes about the four media skills that all spokespeople in a crisis can learn from the Center of Disease Control's Acting Director, Dr. Richard Besser.

1. Show empathy
Besser rarely opens an interview or briefing without expressing deep sympathy for the victims. When news broke that a 23-month-old boy in Texas was the first to die in the U.S, Besser said, “Any death is tragic. But as a pediatrician and parent, it’s especially tragic to see it in a young child.”

2. Display boldness
In nearly every interview, Besser sticks to the CDC’s main message: bold action. He always characterizes the CDC’s response as “very aggressive.” A government agency or corporation facing a crisis typically faces more questions than answers. People will forgive a spokesperson for not having all the answers, but they will not forgive a nonchalant attitude.

3. Educate viewers
A CNN anchor asked Besser a natural question, “Where does the total number of confirmed cases now stand?” Besser acted an educator. Before revealing the latest numbers, he said, “Focusing on numbers is less important than what the numbers tell us about how it’s spreading.” Most television anchors and viewers are not disease specialists. They are asking questions based on a lack of knowledge about virus outbreaks and prevention. A reassuring spokesperson will use questions as an opportunity to educate viewers.

4. Offer advice
Typically before he’s even asked, Besser offers advice about how individuals can protect themselves against the virus. According to Besser, these actions include “frequent hand washing, covering your cough, and staying home if you’re sick.” When people feel out of control, it’s important to offer them specific tips that help them regain a sense of control over some part of the crisis.

According to Gallo, Besser's techniques should serve as a model for crisis communications.

Carmine Gallo is the communication skills coach for the world's most admired brands. As a crisis communications specialist, he has worked with spokespeople facing some of the most newsworthy events of our time, including the E.coli spinach outbreak of 2006-2007. Gallo is a popular speaker and author. Visit him online at

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Gallo Communications Group
Carmine Gallo

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