Anyone who has attended one of our crisis spokesperson workshops will tell you how important it is to express empathy during a crisis press briefing. You want the community to know that you care about the people who have been impacted by a crisis event. But you just can’t deliver an empathetic message, you have to sound like you mean it!

Unfortunately, a law enforcement spokesperson failed on that score when speaking to reporters about a deadly shooting near a Houston area high school. Major Saul Suarez of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department offered condolences to the family of a teenager who was shot to death. But as you will hear and see in the clip below, his tone of voice, cadence, and body language didn’t match his message.

Ask yourself, did Major Suarez come across as sincere when he offered condolences to the family? Clearly the answer is “no.” The line about condolences was so matter of fact that it sounded like every other line. This doesn’t mean Suarez didn’t care about the teenager’s death. He just didn’t truly communicate his feelings to the media and, ultimately, to the public.

So, what could Suarez have done differently? When he got to the condolence line, he should have paused, slowed down a bit, delivered his message, then paused again before moving forward with his statement. In short, Suarez should have altered his tone when offering condolences. Had he done so, Suarez would have communicated to the family and the community that he actually cared and would have sounded like he meant it.