6 Crisis Communication Planning Tips

Last updated on September 13, 2021 at 03:53 pm

When a crisis strikes, will you be ready to communicate with all employees so you can own the internal narrative? With the 24-hour news cycle, a story about your organization can hit the wires or social media at any moment. Do you have a crisis comms plan in place? Is your leadership team in the loop and supportive of the plan? For those who don’t have a plan yet, here are six crisis communication planning tips to be more proactive about your internal reaction to a crisis and ensure that you are prepared: 

1. Pre-Approve Your Basic Crisis Response Messages

It’s key to have a pre-approved plan in place when a crisis strikes to make sure you’re able to respond quickly. We recommend taking the time with key stakeholders to review what some of the most common crisis scenarios are and agree on a plan of attack—including the communication strategy.

And then take this a step further and think of the catastrophic crisis scenarios. COVID-19 couldn’t have been predicted, but thinking of worst-case-scenarios and having even the skeleton of a plan can make a huge difference. The faster you can respond, the better off your employees and your company will be.

2. Keep Employees at the Center of Your Crisis Comms Plan

During a crisis, the initial reaction is to try to control the narrative externally. But don’t forget about your most powerful voice—your employees. They want to be in-the-know and certainly don’t want to find out about a crisis through other sources like the major news networks or social media. They want to hear it from you first.

3. Loop in your leaders

Even if it’s just a few minutes before, giving your frontline managers a heads-up on what is about to be communicated will give them time to prepare for questions from their team, not to mention demonstrate a unified response company-wide. Take it from someone who knows—there is no worse feeling for a manager to have to answer the question of what’s going on with the response: “I don’t know, I just found out too.”

4. Give Employees an Internal Channel to Ask Questions

Employees will have questions. Rather than having them ask them via places like social media channels, give them a channel that you can control—but make sure to be ready to monitor it and respond quickly.

And the key for crisis communication planning is to not wait until the worst scenario happens to take action. So, don’t wait to create a crisis channel. Make one right now! And if you want employees to be able to use it, start the change management process right now so they know the channel exists and what it’s used for. So when the time comes that there’s some kind of crisis, big or small, they already know the channel exists and can use it.

5. Respond Quickly, Yet Deliberatively

Share just the right amount of information. There will be details that are confidential and that don’t need to be disclosed (especially if legal is involved and is still working to understand the facts). The most important thing is to acknowledge the situation in a timely fashion and assure your employees that you will let them know what is going on as soon as the details are known. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that it can feel worse to sit and wait for answers. Sometimes the best thing to do is send a communication that says, “we understand that you have questions about x, y, and z. We are still working to get the answers.” Sometimes acknowledgement is half the battle. Of course, the answers to questions in a crisis are vital, but this will go a long way in preventing panic or your employees thinking you’re apathetic to their concerns.

6. Conduct a Post-Crisis Evaluation of the Plan to Learn What Worked and What Didn’t

Like every campaign you create, it’s key to do an analysis of what worked and what didn’t. Were your people leaders given enough information to effectively communicate with their direct reports? Did the information get to them quickly and efficiently? Do employees understand the impact of the crisis both on the organization as a whole, their teams and themselves personally? Did the messaging and communication align with the vision/mission/values of the company?

Ask your employees these questions. Learn from the situation and adjust your plan as needed. 

Get Ahead of Crisis

Employee engagement and morale are tested and at their most vulnerable during times of crisis and change. Being transparent with employees and letting them see through your actions and that of leadership are critical during tough times and will prove instrumental when it comes to dispelling rumors and maintaining employee trust, which is easily achievable with proactive crisis communication planning.

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