The old adage of “It’s not what you say, but how you say it” has never rung truer than the current crisis financial service provider Momentum finds itself in. Facing significant backlash as a result of its refusal to pay a life policy of a client who died in a hijacking, consumers and media alike are appalled by the company’s steadfast decision and its reaction. Twitter with its #Momentum has not shown any support for the embattled insurer with most horrified by the callous and inhumane treatment of the family. While it seems that legally full disclosure was not received and Momentum is technically within its rights to decline, it’s how the message was delivered that left much to be desired. I saw one comment suggesting its corporate communications department be fired, but in fairness, it is not often that we see these consultants being at the helm of these situations. I listened to the 702/Cape Talk interview with Eusebius Mckaiser and my gut feel, developed over 27 years in the business, tells me that the c-suite of Momentum would not necessarily take direction easily from a communications specialist. They should, because the interview did more damage than good, but it’s a bit late now. The manner in which this has been managed and communicated will ultimately cost the brand more than paying the R2,4 million. Brand equity is critical and tied to it is the ability to communicate well and effectively. In this instance, compassion and empathy were more important than protecting the insurance industry at large. It’s huge and powerful and doesn’t need to be treated with kid gloves. What does need to be protected is the image, value system and ethos of the Momentum brand. Don’t underestimate the power of managing your communications professionally. It’s not simply about making a statement or outlining the technical facts, it is about communicating with feeling, understanding and humility. I have watched tweet after tweet of people cancelling their policies, not sure in the big scheme of things, if this will amount to much, but I do know that the damage to the brand will be felt. I have suggested for years that communications be taken more seriously, to be heard at boardroom level, but the profession faces a significant battle as it doesn’t happen often enough. Today’s debacle is a good example. I think they must be scrambling now, when this could have been an opportunity for Momentum to take the high ground and be seen as a compassionate leader in a sector that is inundated with distrust and cynicism.