8th May 2020
A crisis need not always be a crisis if your company comes out stronger as a team – and sometimes, when handled the right way, as a brand – on the other side. Whether it’s a national pandemic, technological crisis or a PR nightmare; the way you and your employees handle the imminent threat will say a lot about you as a company. Execution of a solid communication plan is the key to surviving in a business crisis; and this communication needs to come from the top down.
Here we outline why communication is essential, what great crisis communication looks like and how you can empower your employees to handle any unexpected situation.
Strong and consistent internal communication during a crisis is essential to ensure all of your team is on-top of the situation and able to do their job effectively. It sustains employee morale and faith in the company (particularly important if it is a crisis where the company has been deemed to be at fault), and maintains productivity levels. Good crisis communication is the thread that keeps everything together.
If you don’t have one already then put a solid company crisis communication plan in place. This document outlines procedures, who will be in charge, where the crisis committee will meet and the communication channels. Should an unprecedented situation arise you will be ready to execute the procedures outlined in your plan, removing much of the uncertainty from the situation.
Work with your HR team and/or senior management team when actioning this document. Seek to understand employees’ potential concerns and questions and make a list of these likely questions and the answers.
In your plan you should outline the nuances for different types of crises; eg a crisis that affects staff vs stockholders vs national crisis will each require a different type of communication and a different tone.
In a crisis, now is the time to rely on your team; your PR, HR and legal teams will be integral to helping you reach your employees, to avoid negative sentiment, rumours and confusing messaging. Tailor your communications to different levels of staff; managers will require different information to their reportees.
Give employees the tools and information they need to talk about the crisis and deal with it within their role. eg It will be essential that front-facing staff who will be dealing with customer queries (and complaints!) feel appropriately informed in order to respond with confidence and credibility.
Encourage open communication and discussion within the company. Acknowledge staff anxiety and urge employees to talk to their managers openly; sharing any worries or concerns. Utilise digital surveys to collect anonymous feedback on employee sentiment.
Consider the ways that you communicate and the frequency; maintain a personal touch by using more than just blanket emails or internal memos. Share video Q&As from your CEO and utilise technology such as video conferencing to reach employees working remotely to give regular “face-to-face” updates on the situation. This will engender a sense of community and foster trust, ultimately strengthening working relationships.
Situations can change quickly, and if you are responsive you will be able to stay in better control of the information being disseminated as well as the mood of your employees. Using the tools outlined above will enable you to respond quickly throughout the situation no matter what arises. Your crisis communication plan is there to guide you, so that you can tailor your response as the situation evolves. It should also enable you to react quickly to events that unfold, thanks to your pre-answered questions.
It’s important to remember that communication needs to remain a priority, even after the initial buzz from the crisis has subsided. When a crisis drags on your communication should remain open and consistent to all involved. In a situation such as the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining a light touch with your employees throughout is integral to managing morale, productivity and workflow.
With good communication management during a crisis, you will be able to stay on the front foot and keep the business running as it should. Remember to stay responsive, keep communication channels open and communicate clearly with your employees throughout the situation. If communication is at the fore-front you and your team will be able to tackle even the trickiest of crises.