Expressing empathy for people affected by a tragedy is the first priority when you’re conducting a news briefing. It should come high up in your statement as you release information to the media about the incident.

However, it’s not good enough to just say empathetic words. You must act and sound like the words are sincere and heartfelt. Otherwise, your words will sound hollow and will not resonate with your audience.

We found an example of that in Lincoln, Nebraska where a multi-vehicle accident left two people dead and 20 injured. City officials, including police chief Teresa Ewins held a news briefing. Ewins read a statement, which is perfectly fine. But while reading, she failed to change her tone as she said, ”our hearts go out…” to the victim’s families. You can view the clip below.

While we have no reason to believe Chief Ewins didn’t care about the victims and their loved ones, she simply didn’t sound like it. When expressing empathy, it’s best to pause and change your tone. It’s also a good idea to raise your eyes from the page and briefly establish eye contact. Hopefully, your company won’t face a crisis that requires you to express empathy at a news briefing. But if you do, just don’t make that part of the statement look and sound like the rest of it.