Updated: Apr 24, 2020
The COVID-19 crisis has arrived fast and has made a massive impact on our lives. While this is not the first crisis of a global scale, it may be the first one you will be communicating.
During my work in aviation industry I had an opportunity to deal with crises like the coronavirus which paralyzed the airline industry, or the “flygskam” movement which has been urging travelers to pick alternative ways of traveling or stay put, as well as observe good and bad examples of airlines tackling safety incidents.
I noticed how facts, consistent messaging and human touch, would click with people and help to turn the crisis around. I want to share with you my experience and my take on what you need to consider for effective integrated communication during a crisis:
1. Build trust through transparency
The news might not be reassuring or might be bluntly devastating to employees, partners and clients. But your reputation stands on how honestly and transparently you deliver those messages.
Sharing information regularly is absolutely key in building trust with your external and internal stakeholders. Even if you do not yet have much to communicate, be sure to transmit you are working on it. Reassurance that you are making progress, will play a key role in how your news will be taken once communicated.
2. Stick to the facts
Your most powerful communication will be backed by data and factual analysis. Crisis is not the time to speculate or dwell on rumors. Make sure to fact-check your communication materials before going live. Do not comment or share content that is not coming from a credible source or cannot be verified. Speed is of essence, but not at the expense of truth.
3. Ensure consistency company-wide
Communication no longer goes out from one department. With the right guidance, every employee can be a company ambassador. Consider creating a one-page fact sheet and an intranet resource library you can share across the organization that states who in the company is authorized to speak to the media and outlines the key messages, FAQs and actions each department should take during the crisis.
Many employees are active on social media and can deliver communication which is seven times more engaging than corporate posts. Make sure to guide them to use strategic messaging to help mitigate the crisis.
4. Stick to what is relevant
I cringe every time I see a company jump on a trendy topic, just to get the attention despite having no expertise or business in that matter. This is the time to remember the brand mission and the core values and stick to them. Going off-piste can come across as opportunistic and tone-deaf.
5. Deliver timely communication
Stay on top of the latest developments and deliver information to your employees, partners and clients when they needed it.
Daily media monitoring and deep listening of conversations taking place on social media, in forums and other digital channels will allow you to have a sense of what the key concerns of your audience are and deliver spot-on communication.
6. Show empathy
Whether it is your clients who you can no longer serve as planned or your employees who you will be delivering difficult news to, be sure to stress you are there for them and understand how difficult the situation is. When you connect on a human level you stand a stronger change of getting the support and understanding and come out of the crisis a stronger brand and employer.
7. Plan for it
While you can never know when the next crisis will hit your company, you can learn from the previous crisis and have an action plan in place to mobilize your team and get going faster and better.
Make sure each team member knows what their role will be and is fully on-board with crisis communication plan and guidelines. The chain of command is essential to deliver timely content and control the conversation within the company and externally.
Plan and practice during the times of calm. Identify the type of training your teams need. And stay current with new practices.
At Change Horizon, we can help you develop and boost your crisis communication strategy, set up procedures, tools and a team, using your communication channels and tailored to your organization, budget and needs.