If you’re like most people, you’d probably prefer not to imagine what happens in a worst-case scenario, or a situational crisis.
However, imagining what could go wrong — and how you’ll react to it — is one of the most important things you can do for your business.
An effective crisis communications plan starts with your employees. With early, clear, and consistent messaging, your team can become advocates for your company during any crisis.
By following these four straightforward crisis communication best practices, your stress levels will go from 100 to 10 (hopefully).
The 4 crisis communication best practices you need to remember
- Make messaging consistent
- Back up statements with action
- Balance timeliness and precision
- Practice empathy
Let’s have a more in-depth look at each of these practices.
1. Make messaging consistent
Your internal communications during a crisis should convey the same stance and expectations to every member of your team, regardless of level.
That is more effective if you already have an easy, direct line of communication with each member of your organization.
While different roles may need to respond differently, it’s crucial t foster a sense of transparency rather than secrecy to ensure a better response across your organization.
Communicate often to make sure everyone is on the same page, even with constantly changing information.
In a 2020 Edelman study on internal communications during the COVID-19 pandemic, 63% of employees wanted daily updates, and 23% wanted communications multiple times a day.
2. Back up statements with action
It's important for your team to understand how to talk about a situation, but it's even more important for them to understand what's being done — and their role in the process.
As soon as you have a response plan, communicate it to your team. That way, what's being done to resolve an issue is at the forefront of the conversation. Share what your organization's plan is to prevent situations from arising and use as many concrete steps as you can.
Recruit those in your organization who can help with definite tasks. Perhaps the PR team needs to create an official statement, or the development team needs to redesign a product. Whatever it is, let everyone know how they can help to react to the crisis.
3. Balance timeliness and precision
The moments immediately following an event are often the most critical for your internal communications during a crisis.
You don’t want there to be a sudden vacuum of silence where others may be left to speculate. That is the time to get your initial response out quickly, to guide the narrative.
It’s alright to let your employees know there are some things you still don’t know. It’s better to be upfront about how you’re addressing uncertainties than to wait to communicate at all.
With that in mind, it’s also appropriate to take your time to craft a more thought-out response for the long term. Planning for crises means you’re prepared immediately in the event.
While it can be impossible to plan out the details of your crisis response, it's vital to create crisis response documents that lay the groundwork processes for establishing more detailed responses with your team.
4. Practice empathy
The crisis will undoubtedly affect your employees day-to-day, some certainly more than others.
It’s critical to empathize with your employee’s struggles throughout the crisis and recognize where their duties have become more difficult.
A 2020 Catalyst survey on the effects of empathy in the workplace during COVID-19 found that empathetic leaders and managers increase productivity, innovation, and engagement.
Although you don’t want to dwell on how the situation is causing setbacks or difficulties, you can still empathize with your workers while returning to the positive.
Communicate your gratitude for their continued hard work and outline plans to alleviate their stressors.
The Catalyst study states empathetic leadership entails:
- Respecting life circumstances
- Supporting both life and work needs
- Fostering inclusion
Open lines of communication to hear their input and experiences. Solicit feedback through forms, polls, and one-on-one interviews. Let your employees know that you want to listen to their thoughts on tackling the crisis from their point of view.
Show up in more than just writing. Video messages and calls communicate more empathy than written statements.
Final thoughts: 4 crisis communication best practices
Your internal communication during a situational crisis is just as important as your public communication — and perhaps even more so.
That’s why it’s essential to lay the groundwork for a plan so you can react effectively if necessary. Your internal crisis communications should be consistent, actionable, timely, and empathetic.
All the members of your organization deserve frequent, comprehensive, and accessible updates during a crisis.
Psst – looking for crisis communication tools?
Blink’s employee communications app provides an efficient way for you to communicate with everyone in your organization. From company-wide status updates to policy changes through the intranet, the all-in-one app makes connecting with your employees simple.