Your Guide To Effective Communications During A Crisis.

Businesses operating in an unstable political climate more often than not need to resort to crisis communications to update employees, clients, and partners. However, not all businesses are prepared and their communication falls flat, with messages being misinterpreted and misconstrued. 

Getting the wrong message out there can make or break a business. This recently happened as the CEO of Europe’s largest annual technology conference, Web Summit, resigned in an effort to quell a controversy surrounding comments he made on the Israel-Hamas war. Although he did apologise to his employees, his actions could very well have cost them their livelihoods as many large companies had already cancelled their attendance at the event. 

So is there a correct way to make a statement in a crisis situation or is it best to not say anything? With only a few key questions, companies can outline what they want to say and achieve in tough times. 

Should a company respond to a particular crisis?

If a company is situated in a conflicted territory, there is a need to communicate a statement updating the emotional and physical toll on employees, a show of support and empathy towards the situation, and a message about business continuity. 

How should a company respond and what should be the focus of your statement?

It is key to get this right as it directly impacts all the entities you connect to as a business. Are you taking a position and how will this affect your employees, partners and corporate branding? CEOs will do well to empower their communications team to craft effective messages, listen to employees and not be tone deaf to the current crisis. 

Now that we’ve made a statement, and we’re talking to our employees, what is the focus?

Employers need to be especially sensitive in this type of situation to limit offending employees who might be of the other ethnicity. Empathy and support are key in this type of situation. 

Inspired Marketing works with several technology companies. The past few weeks have seen these companies turn to us for marketing and communications insight during this crisis situation. With this in mind, we have put together some tips on how to interpret and take action in a crisis situation.

Always have a crisis communication plan in place. All steps in the plan need to ensure that information reaches employees, partners, customers, media, the general public, and any other valuable stakeholders. The benefit of having a well-thought out plan provides stability, transparency and tranquillity to an otherwise unpredictable situation. Make sure you have the following elements in place:

  • Crisis communication team members with contact information

  • Designated spokesperson

  • Meeting place/location

  • Media plan with procedures.

Communicating 24/7: The dramatically increased scope of communication for information sharing, support, personal influence, and inspiration is critical. The flow of information is overwhelming, so businesses are recommended to prioritise accuracy and clarity when communicating. Companies should leave no room for interpretation. The influx of online communication and judgement trolls can lead to misunderstandings. Businesses should choose appropriate and precise words and statements that are well thought out.

Empathy. Sensitivity is heightened during a crisis. If a business is the target of negative or angry words in public, it is vital to not take them personally or get involved in conflicts. It is essential that CEOs focus on their communication style and tone by approaching issues with more softness and sensitivity, while striving to portray a calm, authentic, and compassionate persona. 

Focus on internal communication. The heart and soul of a company are its people. Each one of us is human including a CEO and all need to be heard and acknowledged. It is critical that management pays attention to communication within the company or organisation, making it clear that employees can contact a responsible person if they want to talk about what is happening. They should take time for reflection within the team, discuss challenges and address them together.

Business continuity. For those businesses that are still operating in times of a crisis, it is essential to communicate this to all parties. In difficult times it is quite possible that people work to keep themselves busy and to take their minds off current issues. By simply getting on with things it demonstrates a quiet resilience internally as well as externally. Another important factor for business continuity is to be open to new opportunities and strategic changes in the company’s activities. This makes it possible to preserve, maintain, or develop a business or transform processes or structure, and to learn from experience at speed. 

Setting an example. As in all life crises, conflict is a test of authenticity. Many CEOs consciously or spontaneously choose to communicate their true values, hopes, and position to the current situation. Their personal communication, values, decision-making priorities, emotional openness, and restraint is inspirational for employees and fosters ongoing trust. 

Pausing activity. In extreme crises it may be essential to pause some activities. Companies may have employees that are directly affected by the current crisis which will have an impact on business continuity. Similarly, instead of companies getting the wrong message out there, pausing all social media activity for a couple of weeks is acceptable. Once the situation has stabilised, posting and tweeting can restart provided there is a policy in place detailing what messages can and cannot be communicated. 

Remote Work. Different types of crises dictate different work methods. In times of extreme conflict, working remotely is the only option. Employees that are already feeling extremely isolated and anxious often need the structure and stability of a team and constant communication. This can be achieved by hosting regular team meetings, checking in on team members, and team building exercises. 

Prepare for Recovery. As the crisis subsides, transition your communication to focus on recovery, rebuilding, and returning to normalcy. Workers forced to work remotely can begin to return intermittently to the office. Focusing on the mental health of employees is essential, and the setting up of support groups enables employees to share their individual situations with others and be heard. As the dust settles, it is important to evaluate what worked and what didn’t during the crisis, and adapt plans and communication strategies accordingly. 

Remember that effective communication during a war or crisis situation can help reduce panic, instil confidence, and keep your staff safe and well-informed. It’s essential to remain adaptable and responsive as the situation evolves. To learn more about how to prepare yourself for times of crisis, reach out to us about how you can integrate crisis planning into your marketing activities. Our team of experts are available to give short strategic sessions for those marketing managers in need.

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