Getting your Crisis Communications right
We’re all trying to come to terms with the ‘new normal’, and what that means for us, our families and our businesses. With a crisis, there is more reason to communicate (and communicate well) than at many other times. Our previous blog ran through the things you need to get a plan in place. This time we’ve got more tips to help you to get your crisis communications right.
A plan is just a plan if nothing happens. So, here goes.
Who’s in charge?
In the corporate world and in global crisis management there is a tried and tested structure which can be adopted by SMEs too. It works!
It is a 3-tier command:
- Gold – The ultimate decision-maker
- Silver – People directing how the plan is delivered
- Bronze – People with specific tasks to complete.
In a very small business, the Gold and Silver roles might be merged together. You might even have all three roles yourself.
It is easy to make mistakes if you try to do everything yourself. It is a truism that a problem shared is a problem halved. This is true for a lot of SMEs, particularly the smallest, micro-businesses. So, find someone to be a second opinion. That person needs to challenge your own assumptions and provide an alternative perspective. Your decisions will be stronger for surviving scrutiny. They can save you from making a bad decision which you later regret or waste resources correcting.
Have clear information which everyone in the business can refer to. You cannot say one thing to staff and something else to others. Social media and instant communication make that impossible.
Prepare to be flexible
You will get reactions. Questions will be asked. So, be ready to answer them.
Things can change quickly in a crisis like COVID-19. We’ve all seen how new information changes the situation, radically altering what you can do and how you can do it.
Listen to feedback from your team, monitor reliable sources of information and speak to others in a similar position to get an external viewpoint. But don’t slavishly follow others, they might be wrong. Do and say what’s right for your business and your stakeholders.
Structure, Review and Update
This won’t be a case of just communicating with your audiences only once. You need to keep people informed and up to date. It is time to establish a structure and process. A few actions can be hard-wired into your management:
- Gold and Silver Command needs to meet/speak frequently and make any changes necessary.
- Plan how often you are going to communicate – but keep this under review. You’ll probably want to speak to some people more often than others to update them.
- Stick to the plan.
Start thinking like a marketeer.
The longer you are in a crisis situation, the more your communications will begin to normalise. Here, you need to plan exactly as you would for a marketing campaign. Know what you want people to do, spell out what you want to say clearly and make sure you can deliver on any commitments you make.
Be sure you know where you want to be at the end, and where you want your different stakeholders to be. If you want them to be ‘sticky’ to your brand, loyal despite the crisis, understanding or in a better position because of your business’ actions, then you need to plan to achieve that.
We’ll be talking about messages and even campaigns in our next blog.
After the storm…
It could be some time before we reach the final phase of this global crisis, but when you get time, do sit back and look at how your Crisis Communication Plan has played out. Look back to review what worked, what could have been done better and, checking in every corner of your business, what lessons can be learned.
Despite feeling like you simply want to forget it, invest the time to reflect. After all, you will be in a much better position to ride out the next storm.
If you began your crisis without a plan, take the time to capture how you would manage the next one. If you don’t, you run a serious risk of facing the next one unprepared and none the wiser.
It’s not too late
It’s not too late to get your Crisis Communication Plan together. We’ve got the key steps for you right here in this blog.
It’s uncertain times for everyone and every business right now. We’re happy to have a chat and a virtual cuppa with you – just get in touch.
In our next blog, we’ll be sharing more tips about delivering your plan, including messages and campaigns.