What you need to think about to communicate in a crisis
New year, new crisis? We started the year with fresh hope, but also fully aware that we still have a long way to go before we are out of the pandemic crisis. With cases rising, and another national lockdown announced, it’s a time to get communications out to people quickly and effectively. Employers have to adapt rapidly to changing situations and circumstances, and create communications that reach everyone. As we watch the scenes unfolding, it’s painfully apparent that clear communications need to be created with thought, consideration and effectiveness.
This is no time for muddled, confused messaging or for forgetting about all the different people who are affected. This is a time for being as inclusive as you possibly can in how you think about communications in a crisis.
Empathy and teamwork
The first thing to consider in any crisis communications is the different people you need to reach and engage. This is not something you can do on your own. It’s critical to have a diverse range of voices, experiences and perspectives to help you. Think carefully about the people you have around you and make sure you have included diverse voices in your team.
Have you thought about parents, those with disabilities, people who cannot work from home and those who have to support others? One size will not fit all in your approach, and you will need to understand the many situations people are dealing with.
Any discussions will need to consider the different needs of different people, so asking different people to provide input will help you to understand and empathise with all those situations. Those different perspectives and voices will help you create the communications plan you need.
Transparency, clarity, timing
What people are seeking in a crisis is transparency about what is happening, what decisions are being made and exactly how it will affect them. And they will be feeling anxious, so getting communications out as quickly as you can will reassure your stakeholders in that crisis.
This is not the time for mixed messaging, allowing rumours to spread, or for leaving people hanging with a void of information. This is the time to step up, and get those clear communications out there as quick as you possibly can. And the work is not done when you have got initial communications out to people. They will need updates and reminders to feel reassured that you have the situation in hand.
All of these communications will need to be easy to understand and accessible to everyone, no matter their needs or situation. The team of diverse voices that you have assembled will help you with all of this.
For employers, this will be a time to show your employees that you are thinking about them. To show understanding of their circumstances and adaptability for each person’s situation. Employers need to strike the right tone of being reassuring, understanding and give clarity to steady any uncertainty about the situation.
This is where that diverse group of people you have included will help any leader making decisions and communicating to their teams. As we have seen with government decisions – forgetting about childcare provisions, self-employed people and pregnant women, for example – a lack of understanding of different situations and differences in people’s lives will alienate, frustrate and upset people.
Employers who care will consult a diverse range of perspectives to get their decisions made. They will put thought and consideration for everyone into decisions, and then communicate that clearly to people to help them feel safe and secure. And when you have that team in place, they will help you to keep the dialogue going with people so that they feel they can ask questions and talk to people for help.
Think about customers and stakeholders
For customers, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders, they will need clarity and reassurance from you too. If you provide a critical product or service, clarity around availability, support and care are all vital to reassure your market that you are there. This requires being responsive to any questions, clear in your messaging and ensuring you reach everyone.
If your business has to close or change operations, then your customers need to know that. Think about how to get the message to people through all your communication channels. Forgetting this means losing those customers in future. They will not easily come back to a business or service who forgets about them in a crisis.
If all of this sounds daunting, talk to us and we can help you create a clear communications plan that includes everyone. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.