What is Crisis Communications, and why do you need it?

Industries and businesses of all types and sizes are increasingly embracing issues and crisis communication planning. Organisations now need to prepare for a much wider range of emergencies that include Cyber-crime, supply chain issues, negative social media noise and world events such as the global pandemic and war in Europe.

Preparing ahead of time for a crisis ensures that relevant personnel can quickly and effectively communicate with each other during moments of threat, sharing information that allows the organization to quickly rectify the situation, protect customers, employees and assets, and ensure business continuity.

Companies of all sizes, in all industries, face a growing number of threats. Due to the instantaneous nature of the online news media, it is more important than ever for organizations to be able to respond quickly and confidently instantly when a crisis emerges.

Setting up an Effective Crisis Communication Strategy

Even though many employers are aware of the importance of crisis communication, not many of them have a clear plan and strategy about what to do when a crisis happens.

  1. Create a crisis communication plan

Like any other workplace strategy, crisis communication needs a well-set plan and objectives. Without the proper plan, crisis communicators are less likely to follow the company rules and they may not be able to align employees with the overall strategy.  The crisis communication plan should also identify all the possible situations in which crisis communication is needed.

  1. Appoint your crisis communication team and spokesperson

Choosing and appointing the right people who will be in your crisis communication team is extremely important. Here, it is important to understand that even though the company’s CEO is an important figure, people from other departments such as managers, HR professionals, operations, internal communications, and PR departments should be involved in the strategy.

The person you assign as the spokesperson should be trained and experienced in how to handle crisis and emergency, communicate well with all the employees react on a timely basis and always be ready to answer employees’ specific questions.

  1. Train communicators and help them develop good communication skills

Same as for many other positions in the organizations, appropriate training and skill development are essential to help a crisis spokesperson succeed in their job. Besides training available to crisis communication professionals, it is extremely important that these people have good communication skills.

Therefore, proper communication skills are the most valuable skills a spokesperson can possess as they have a significant impact on how to gain employees’ attention, connect with employees, build trust in the workplace and make employees work towards the same goals.

  1. Understand your audiences

Same as in any communication strategy such as marketing communications, workplace crisis communicators need to have a very good understanding of their audience.

In most situations, there will be multiple audiences a spokesperson would have to communicate and connect to. Therefore, the ability to segment those audiences properly and adjust the approach and messages to them is crucial for successful crisis communication.

Also, depending on the type of crisis, not every employee may be the right audience to communicate with. In any situation, however, the message needs to be delivered in a timely manner, it needs to be clear and easy to understand.

Timely communication is crucial because the worst thing that can happen is for your employees to hear about the crisis from a source different from their own employer.

However, many employers still don’t have the right communication tools to really understand and manage their multigenerationa workforce.

  1. Deliver messages that matter to your defined audiences

Once you manage to define your audiences, adjusting the internal crisis communication content is the next important step. Remember that not every employee should receive every message during an emergency as this approach just slows down employees’ response time by overwhelming them with irrelevant information.

Ideally, your internal communication solution should be able to target specific individuals and departments to ensure the most pertinent information gets to those who need it most.

Employers that manage to adopt these best practices are more likely to equip people with important information, optimise employee experience, streamline emergency response, protect people, keep physical and digital assets safe, and minimize lost productivity and revenues.

  1. Implement a two-way crisis communication

It is very important to understand that, during a crisis, employees are a valuable asset because they are the voice of the company and they can be your strongest advocates.

For that reason, crisis communication should not go one-way. Crisis communication should enable employees to join the two way conversation,  raise their concerns and ask questions.

  1. Communicate in real-time using the right communication channels

In companies that communicate mainly through emails or even instant messaging apps, it is not uncommon for employees to miss out on important company updates. During the crisis, employers cannot afford this to happen.

Therefore, employers need to make sure to use the right internal communications channels that will be considered as their main source of information during crisis times.

  1. Make sure your messages are accurate and consistent

During crisis, companies are under the microscope of public and media. When communicating with employees, it is important to deliver the right information even if that sometimes means answering with “I don’t know”.

Giving wrong information to the employees can cause the spread of misinformation which can significantly hurt employees’ trust and have a negative impact on employee motivation and engagement

Messages delivered to employees have to be consistent no matter which communication channel you use and whether you are communicating with internal or external stakeholders.

Some companies also tend to neglect or ignore the crisis. However, if you don’t comment on the situation, be sure that someone else will. Therefore, consistent and transparent communication is a must-have during a crisis.

  1. Monitor communication and employees’ behaviours and react in a timely manner

Unfortunately, many employers don’t have insights into their employee engagement with the crisis-related content delivered to them. This causes high levels of uncertainty and fear that employees haven’t even got or read the critical updates.

  1. Perform a post-crisis analysis

When the crisis is over, employers need to ask themselves: “What did we learn from this?” Even though these situations are not comfortable to anyone, they should serve as a good learning curve. The 5 questions every employer should address after the crisis include:

  • What did we do right?
  • What did we do wrong?
  • How to improve crisis communication next time?
  • What are the critical crisis communication elements that have a big and direct impact on how the crisis was handled?
  • How can we better prepare our crisis communications team?

Creating an effective crisis management plan can be among the hardest tasks an organisation will undertake. There are so many nuances of the planning and execution to get right. Afterall, it’s the brand’s reputation at stake and its critical the choppy waters are navigated with expertise and experience.

Here at Ranieri, we have worked with brands such as Costa Coffee, Turkish Airlines and KidZania London in developing crisis communications strategies and activations.