Keep Calm and Carry on Communicating

When it comes to a crisis, internal communications often takes the biggest hit. In the rush to fix the problem, identify the financial implications and address the reputational damage, organisations can often forget to tell their employees what’s actually going on. But ignoring your staff during a crisis can often make a bad situation worse as employees look for answers elsewhere or fill in the gaps themselves.

Here are our top tips for using internal communication more effectively and for preventing your molehill from becoming a mountain.

  • Plan

An internal communication plan should form part of your organisation’s crisis manual (get one if you haven’t already!) and should include an outline of who will be responsible for communicating messages and what methods will be used in the event of a disaster. Most importantly, make sure that your employees know where to find the manual and rehearse your plans regularly. There’s no point having a plan if no one knows what it is.

  • Establish the facts

During a crisis it can be tempting to start talking straight away, but make sure that you establish some basic facts before putting out messages. It’s important to be clear on whether or not you’re actually dealing with a crisis before you start putting your plans into action.

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  • Get messages out promptly

Keep messages simple, with clear key points and circulate information regularly, even if there is no new update. When it comes to crisis communication no news is rarely good news, so keep your staff informed even if it’s just to tell them that the situation is on-going and you will update them shortly.

  • Keep it human

When a crisis hits people are naturally worried so keep the tone of your messages accessible. Don’t shy away from being honest about bad news, but always remember to balance difficult messages with reassurances of how you are responding to the problem.

  • Coordinate your channels

With intranets, staff social media sites, text messages and team meetings all at your disposal there are now lots of ways to get your messages out to people during a crisis. Make use of as many methods as possible, but make sure you coordinate them and release information at the same time so that everyone is kept up to date on developments.

  • Identify a spokesperson (the right one)

Some crisis messages need to be delivered in person, so identify an appropriate person within your organisation to fulfil this role. Where possible keep the spokesperson the same for all messages as retaining some consistency is key for reassuring employees that issues are under control. Try to pick someone who is fully briefed on the crisis, but is not directly responsible for actually resolving the problem as this could impact on the ease by which you can messages out to your staff.

  • Employee feedback

If your crisis looks like it may last some time develop channels to allow employees to ask questions. Electronic rumour mills, online FAQs or designated ‘crisis champions’ can all provide a useful way of getting employees to ask the questions that are concerning them and can provide your organisation with the opportunity to clarify rumours before they get out of hand.

  • Assess and review

When the crisis is over speak to your senior managers and staff about what communication worked well and where improvements could be made. Amend your crisis communication plan in light of those discussions and get back to business as usual, safe in the knowledge that you’re prepared for anything.