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Communication in Times of Crisis

Communication in Times of Crisis

by Dustin Abad on and last update on May 19, 2020

Transparency and regular communication during a crisis are key elements of good leadership. Well-structured communication helps leaders maintain credibility and ensure employees are safe. Below we present four essential components of communication strategy during a crisis.

Respond Promptly and Accurately

When an emergency happens, leaders have to be proactive in communicating all information pertaining to company actions and the crisis.

Prompt and factual information released before the employees receive it from the media outlets or social media channels is critical to retain transparency in the nascent stages of the emergency.

Withholding information might be perceived as inaction by the public, customers, and employees, which can result in reputational damage. Remember, however, to be careful when releasing information. All outgoing company channels will be scrutinized not only during the crisis but also long after it’s over.

Centralize Communication

While decentralized command is critical to respond to crises with data taken from the very frontlines of the crisis—it gives local teams the necessary knowledge to form an optimal response—communication should be centralized to ensure streamlined messaging to all stakeholders.

During a crisis, misinformation and information overload can become a significant burden to employees and other stakeholders. Centralized communication helps ensure regular status updates to external and internal stakeholders.

To centralize communication, establish a crisis communication team that will provide structured and reliable communication.

The crisis communication team should consist of:

  • Senior leader
  • PR specialist
  • Field expert
  • HR specialist

The crisis communication team’s tasks are as follows:

  • Organizing regular meetings to analyze how the crisis unfolds and impacts the company.
  • Releasing frequent and accurate updates to customers, employees, and shareholders to keep them informed.
  • Establishing a set of rules governing communication that should be transparent and fact-based. Admitting both the known and unknown areas is the foundation of transparency and credibility.
  • Keeping the messages brief and to the point. Long messages and too much unnecessary information can lead to confusion.
  • Making the crisis communication team the go-to source of information regarding the crisis. This helps decrease the adverse effects of misinformation coming from channels unrelated to the company.

Note: In your communication with key stakeholders, you can ask the legal department for advice to avoid potential liabilities.

Establish Regular Communication with Employees

Instilling calm in employees early on during a crisis helps build workforce resilience and reduce employee anxiety (internal link to “How to Ensure Long-Term Workforce Resilience?”).

You should first inform your employees of what exactly happened, the result of the incident, and how the company is proceeding to mitigate the damage and sustain operations.

To achieve this, leaders should support staff and offer guidance to employees throughout the crisis.

Here are best practices when communicating with employees:

  • Establish a designated communication channel easily accessible to employees. You can set up a Slack channel or Facebook group.
  • Send out communication at least three times a week. If the crisis evolves rapidly, adjust the communication schedule accordingly—it’s always better to keep the employees updated rather than in the dark.
  • Be proactive—update employees even when you lack complete information.
  • Explain how and why certain procedures and policies were put in place (e.g., the work-from-home policy).

To further support employees, you can use the designated communication channel to share information regarding access to essential goods and services. Anticipate what information and solutions might be needed and upload them to the channel for easy access.

Maintain Frequent Communication with Customers

Customers appreciate honesty and transparency. Don’t dodge information—release frequent updates with clear and brief messages. Here’s some advice on good customer communication during a crisis.

  • Ensure that customers are safe and let them know how you care about their well-being (e.g., banks cleaning ATMs, shops disinfecting goods, delivery companies sanitizing packages).
  • Don’t try to use the crisis to increase sales. It’s your company’s time to be supportive. However, if your customers’ other suppliers are unavailable and you can help with their orders, you can try to tactfully explore this possibility.
  • Adjust your offer to reflect the crisis and respect your customers’ situation. If possible, change your cancellation policies or fees. Such practices can increase brand loyalty among customers and are another sign that you care about them.

Inform Shareholders about Updates and Your Actions

The COVID-19 pandemic effect on the economy is devastating. Investors face losses and uncertain futures. Leaders should be proactive in communicating how they plan to tackle the crisis and its effect on the company’s operations.

Shareholder communication advice:

  • Describe the steps taken to mitigate the long- and short-term consequences of the crisis.
  • Don’t hold back information—again, transparency is the key.

Communicating with shareholders with travel restrictions imposed globally can be problematic. Create a communication plan that involves convenient and secure solutions, such as AGM@Convene or Convene’s board management solution.

Develop a Thoughtful Communication Strategy

Effective crisis communication requires a broad perspective and transparency. You need to communicate regularly with all stakeholders and keep them updated in a structured manner. By being proactive in your crisis communication, you have a greater chance to mitigate possible reputational damage and to strengthen your brand’s credibility.

Convene’s board management solution provides leadership teams with a secure and efficient platform to collaborate and communicate remotely. With our solution, board can easily and instantly access and share information that they need to make critical decisions in times of crisis. Learn more how Convene can support your crisis communication strategy by booking a demo here.

Governance and Leadership
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