Lesson in Crisis Communication, Delivered on the Subway

The Hired Pens | By Dan O’Sullivan | January 2017

People wait to board a Red Line train at Porter Square MBTA station in February. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)When I hopped on the MBTA (our subway) yesterday, I wasn’t expecting to attend a master class in crisis communication. But that’s just what happened, courtesy of a congenial conductor.

We’ve all been there before. You’re stuck on the airplane runway for no apparent reason. Or a line at the grocery store that hasn’t moved in five minutes. As time passes without any explanation or apology, everyone gets more and more agitated. If there’s a good reason for the delay — or any end in sight — the answer remains a mystery.

So when my train slowed to stop between Davis and Porter squares yesterday, I immediately got a sick feeling in my stomach. But within 30 seconds, the conductor’s voice came over the intercom: “There’s a signal problem at Kendall Square. We have about eight trains in front of us, so we’re going to be here for a while.”

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