By: Melissa Lee, Communications Manager
The COVID-19 pandemic has refueled the discussion around “crisis communication” and what it means to prepare your company to respond to unplanned events. Whether the crisis is internal or external, there are key elements that all companies should take to ensure that they’re appropriately engaging employees, stakeholders and customers, and that they emerge from the crisis with a clear path forward.
- Keep employees in the know. Your employees are the face of your company for a lot of your customers, so it’s important that they are informed of the most recent information at all times. Not only does this enhance the trickle-down communication that customers receive and ensure that the information being shared is correct, it shows that you value your employees and want to face the crisis with a united front. There’s nothing worse than an employee learning of company updates from a customer or outside source.
- Identify your key crisis communication team. In the middle of a crisis, there will be a lot of messaging and delivery suggestions from all corners of the company. To ensure that communication is accurate and timely, it’s important to designate a core team that is responsible for crafting, reviewing, and executing all communication initiatives. Not only does this eliminate duplicate efforts and reduce the opportunity for misinformation, it ensures that employees and customers don’t get overwhelmed with communications.
- Plan ahead of time. While no crisis can truly be “planned for,” you can have policies and procedures in place that help guide communication response efforts. It’s important to identify beforehand who has authority and is comfortable to be the official public spokesperson for your company. You should also have your core crisis communication team identified beforehand so no time is eaten up by determining who should be involved. On the opposite end of that spectrum, all employees should know beforehand what they do and don’t have authority to speak about outside of the organization to avoid communication being released before you are prepared. There should also be pre-drafted talking points that can be modified to address the crisis at hand while still reflecting your core brand standards, and up-to-date communication channels to make delivery of these messages as seamless as possible.
- Don’t sacrifice accuracy for efficiency. In a crisis, there will be urgency to get some type of communication out to employees and customers. While being timely in your response is important, accuracy and messaging are much more important. Don’t send communication just to say you did, make sure that the communication you are sending is relevant and important to the audience, and that all details are accurate. Communicating during a crisis is hard enough, don’t make it even harder by having to retract a statement to make corrections.
- Regroup and learn. Whether the crisis is internal or external, there is always something to be learned about your response. Keep track of what communication channels worked best and which were more difficult to navigate efficiently. Talk to employees and customers to gauge what messaging they found the most value in, and what they didn’t. Each event is an opportunity for us to hone our skills a little bit more, and position ourselves to respond even better should we have to again.