Communicating amid a crisis that affects your business continuity is a delicate matter. They say it is not what you say but how you say it that matters. The same idiom also holds true when it comes to communicating with your stakeholders in the event of a crisis. It not only matters what you do, but also how you communicate about what you are doing. Providing peace of mind in the midst of a crisis, making sure that others know there is a plan in place, and making sure that those in charge execute this plan is no small feat.
In order to address any threat to business continuity, your organization needs to make sure it has a crisis communications plan in place. Your business should speak with a unified voice and have a decided upon “front” person to whom the media or other stakeholders can address their questions. This person should be poised and may be your top public relations person or someone else within the C-Suite. From time to time, this person may also want to receive guidance or pass the baton to another subject matter expert, depending upon the context of a crisis. For example, if the crisis is security related, you may tap your Chief Security Officer to address the situation. With this in mind, it is important for all of your employees to know who these spokespeople are and for those spokespeople to have the tools at hand with which to create peace of mind in the middle of the crisis.
This is often best handled by having a boilerplate script and making sure that all involved have immediate access to the appropriate communications channels.
As you prepare your business for this portion of its business continuity planning, it is necessary to consider the following questions:
Official Company Spokespeople:
Who are the executives at the C-Suite level that are the subject matter experts in their fields?
Who can make sure that all replies are in line with your company’s goals, visions, and branding?
Make sure that your employees know whom to contact in the event they are asked questions by clients and/or the outside media.
When planning for a crisis, it is vital to not only address who will speak on behalf of your organization to the outside world, but also to address internal communications. Who will be in charge of making sure that employees know what is going on? This too should be a top down unified effort. Employees should be kept abreast of situations and it is critical that a plan is in place to disseminate accurate information in a timely manner. For example, in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane, the head of PR may alert the media as to whatever closings or outages your company is facing, whereas the head of HR makes sure that employees are aware of those same outages and whatever policies need to be followed. Make sure that this person is also aware of the appropriate means of communications with employees—perhaps it is Microsoft Teams, Slack, Email or Text messaging. This person needs quick access to the employee directory.
Channels of Communication
Your first task should be to alert your clients that you are aware of the crisis and that you are in the process of handling it. You have a business continuity plan in place—have no fear! Do not wait until you have all the answers to communicate with your clients. You can buy yourself time to figure out all the answers through a thorough investigation by letting stakeholders know that you are addressing the crisis. By being transparent, you will build trust. Don’t forget to update other company forms of communications such as your website and outgoing voicemails, if appropriate.
If you have a social media manager, your head spokesperson should work with him or her to craft contextually appropriate messages to disperse across all your organization’s social media platforms. Remember, the audience for each channel is different, so while the tone of each message should be different, the voice should be cohesive.
Make sure that your company’s mission and vision is ever before you as you craft your message when responding to client and media inquiries during a time of crisis, including tone and language. It may be helpful to also have boilerplate messages crafted for more predictable crises such as natural disasters or a disgruntled customer.
By using crisis communications best practices, you should be able to pivot confidently in the event of a crisis and implement your business continuity plan effectively. Remember, above all else, your communication should be honest, human, and timely.