Let’s talk about a crisis communication plan.
Most organizations have some business plan for an emergency or unexpected event. This plan is important for communicating and updating employees, but also to address the public about how your company is handling the situation.
Typically these guidelines or plans are used to help support company leaders, the organization as a whole, the overall reputation — but also used to keep everyone in the loop.
Below are some tips that will help your organization improve your internal communications and your crisis management plan.
The Importance of A Crisis Communication Plan
By not addressing risks or having a crisis management plan in place at all can result in losses for the company, tarnish the image, or even cause the company to shut down.
But neglecting to instate a crisis communication plan can also cause employees to be uniformed, distrusting of company leaders and their company, and cause general confusion about the state of their job.
In a study by IBM, it was found that business professionals thought that only 60% of employees would know what to do during a crisis.
While not the worst data out there, there is a significant gap that employees are not properly prepared by their organization.
You may already understand the value of a crisis communication plan, but you might be new to it in 2020, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and tough economic times for many businesses.
- Increase awareness: improves the overall awareness and plan among everyone in the organization from stakeholders, executives, to the rest of the employees at the company. Now, employees are more aware, have the right info, and will have access to the information much quicker. While increasing awareness about potential crisis scenarios might seem anxiety-inducing and thus something to ignore, the opposite is true: employees will take confidence in knowing that their company has a plan for their wellbeing in all situations.
- Can help reduce negative impact: Some crises can be prevented and others may be out of your company control, but a crisis communication plan can lower the negative impact. With a well-thought plan, your company is aware of any issues that can be addressed and has a sequence of steps to take to immediately handle various scenarios before they occur.
- Accelerated responses: Rather than waiting until a crisis occurs to start to create a plan, your company’s crisis communication strategy should be well documented. By having a plan before a crisis occurs, it allows your company and employees to quickly adjust and be prepared where needed.
There is nothing worse than being completely unprepared because your company does not think something negative will happen — and then something hits.
Instead of having a process and playbook ready to go, you find you are scrambling to play defense while the crisis stresses your company more and more. Always be prepared!
Crisis Communication Plan Tips
Whether you have an internal communications team, crisis management team, or not — the one main goal your company must ensure is that employees and anyone involved with your company is always informed and not missing out on information.
Your communications plan has to not only be informative, but actionable so employees can respond accordingly to various situations — whether from company-based crises or external factors — in order to keep the business operating smoothly.
The important aspects to your crisis communication plan will include strategy, guidelines, and technology.
1. Anticipate all crises
The problem with crisis management is there are so many scenarios of things that could arise that organizations don’t always anticipate them. And that is exactly how panic mode and organizational madness ensues!
It’s not easy to think of various crises nor is it always pleasant to think about. Plus, many of the potentials could be quite far fetched (don’t worry, not telling you that you need to prep your company for an alien invasion!)
But even ones that have very low odds of happening, should be addressed and planned for. Many crises can be grouped into various preparedness categories, allowing you to simplify what would otherwise be an infinitude of responses into just a handful of operations or plays.
Gather your communication leaders and executives to start brainstorming problems your company could potentially face. These will be common ones all the way to situations that are extremely unlikely.
But understanding these and thinking about each scenario will help your company develop a much better crisis communication plan.
2. Communicate to your employees more frequently
Naturally, your organization should be very transparent and provide consistent communications. But, this also includes a crisis communication plan that employees should have access to and understand what it entails.
Although it may be the communications, PR, and executive teams public responsibility — employees also feel the brunt of the situations too.
- One study reports that employees react to crises in a variety of ways, from panicked and insecure to betrayed and frustrated.
- 72% of employees don’t have a full understanding of the company’s strategy. (IBM)
- 74% of employees feel they are missing out on company information and news. (Trade Press Services)
These stats and results can lead to employees not trusting their organization, lower productivity, and cause people to leave the company.
Before a crisis occurs, ensure you have a plan process in place and that your people are fully aware of how your company will move forward if something were to happen.
Make sure they have access to any guidelines or plan, send updated communications with new information or insights, etc.
3. Utilize employee and customer feedback often
Crises take many shapes and forms, which means there are various response directions that your company may have to address in your plan.
Quite often, some issues that could be considered a crisis arise internally instead of externally — meaning from employees or customers. And those can quickly turn into a bigger company crisis if the public starts hearing about issues or becoming aware of anything internally.
The best way to improve your crisis communication plan is to gather feedback from employees and customers. Not only will this help prevent future situations, but it helps guide your plan for your teams to know what to do.
By gathering feedback, you’ll learn how customers and employees feel about your company. It gives both groups opportunities to provide criticism or share areas of needed improvement.
This can better help team leaders learn how to communicate and create action plans to improve the relationship and stop situations from escalating.
4. Adjust communications for different stakeholders
There are many people involved in organizations, especially enterprise businesses. And these “stakeholders” all value different aspects and like to be informed differently.
What this means for your crisis communication plan is that not only should stakeholders be informed first, but the way the messaging is communicated should be crafted with your audience in mind.
This means, understanding each individual stakeholder “persona” and organizing how they receive information, what constitutes their interests and communication style.
That way, you can tailor information in the best ways that will resonate with them most effectively.
Your company’s team leaders, investors, customers, and employees will all have various ways to consume information and how you position any communications should be unique to each group.
5. Implement the right technology to communicate the plan
There are quite a few communication tools and options your company might be using or are considering using.
These are essential technologies that allow your company to streamline information and collaboration between your entire organization quickly.
Not only should your plan include a variety of technology options and why they are important, but your plan should also take the first step by simply adopting communication technology for new hires, equipping your workforce from day-one.
Needless to say, connecting employees on communication platforms before a crisis is much easier than after disaster strikes.
Two categories that are proving effective for crisis communication plans are employee advocacy and instant messaging software.
Employee advocacy software is perfect for employee communications and distributing information. This keeps employees in the loop with the latest company announcements, content and news that can then be easily shared to social networks.
Advocacy platforms are perfect for disseminating guides and information that employees can access anytime, providing low-distraction ways to stay connected with content and feedback for fully-remote teams or “WFH” situations.
Instant messaging software (I.E. Slack) creates direct messaging opportunities as well as messaging within predefined groups and teams. This can simplify communications that may get lost in the email shuffle and creates an internal space for employees to quickly chat with team leads and each other.
6. Social media is the new norm to your plan
There is no doubt you are familiar with how social media has evolved over the years. Originally just a way for people to connect and communicate, it’s become a juggernaut for boosting marketing and sales.
But it can also create a PR nightmare when something is posted that is perceived as bad taste. And it can quickly go viral with more people seeing it with media publications potentially addressing the story.
However, you can’t ignore social media or be afraid of it either. It’s the best way to connect with audiences and customers, but to also share important information around your business, products, or services.
And during a crisis, social media is another way to communicate with the world how your company is handling a given situation. So your crisis communication plan has to address social media and how it will be managed during any potential crisis.
A great way to help maintain corporate reputation and deliver communications to the world is through employee advocacy. Not only the foremost technology to keep communications healthy in the best of times, an advocacy platform is also essential for handling external communications during any crises.
Since employees have access to content and sharing via a platform, your company can distribute content materials that employees can share to their networks and help the message reach further.
Employees have an average of 1,000 connections each, which creates a nice network effect for information that is shared on your company advocacy platform (i.e.the more employees on your advocacy platform, the more valuable and rich the communications become for everyone) .
7. Update & adapt crisis communications
Even when you anticipate most scenarios or have a plan in place, it doesn’t mean that your strategy is perfect. There will be plenty to analyze, update, and adapt depending on how situations evolve and the changing business environment in general.
Once you have assessed and reviewed how the crisis was handled, it’s time to implement changes and adapt your crisis communication plan to safeguard against any previous oversights or gaps in your original strategy.
Assessment and review are all part of being proactive. It fine tunes your process and it helps your company deal with any crises in a far more efficient manner, limiting any fallout that would have otherwise caused additional damage.