In today’s world, things can change in an instant. Without warning, a business can face an unexpected event that disrupts their operations. Crisis communication best practices are an essential part of any company’s operating strategy.
Crisis internal communication best practices need to be universal to prepare for any type of event that threatens the company and the livelihoods of its staff.
It could be:
- A public relations crisis that results in a plunging stock price and millions of dollars lost. A squeaky clean reputation can be wiped out in a day.
- A data breach that reveals the passwords and financial information of a company’s clients.
- A global pandemic that sweeps across the globe, disrupts supply chains, and brings operations to a complete halt.
But with so many potential threats, only 49% of companies have a crisis plan in place.
What Are Crisis Communication Best Practices?
Crisis communication best practices are the procedures a company employs to ensure operational efficiency during an emergency. These guiding protocols help create communication continuity and facilitate seamless transitions with as little disruption as possible.
The three phrases crisis communication best practices should cover are:
- Prepare: Expect the unexpected
- Respond: Have a crisis communication plan to guide your response.
- Recover: Build resilience and restore order
From corporate giants to small businesses, these ten crisis communication best practices will guide your company through any kind of emergency.
1. Have an Internal Communications Tool that Supports Crisis Communications
A crisis is, by definition, a rapidly unfolding event that can have negative consequences. So every second counts when you’re trying to diffuse blowback and regain control.
A digital communications platform can help create internal alignment. This enables you to issue a real-time, unified communications response to your stakeholders and staff. As a mobile-first solution, a communications tool like Beekeeper can quickly pivot to support a company’s crisis communication plan by:
- Creating communication streams dedicated to crisis planning and response
- Sharing vital safety updates in real-time
- Push notifications that instantly allow you to reach everyone in the company
Pro tip: Choose a mobile-first digital tool that can support internal communication every day and pivot in the face of an unexpected event to support crisis communications.
2. Use Digital Tools to Align Your Company on Crisis Communication
Remember the fire drills you had in elementary school? Everyone—from the principal to the teachers to the students—knew exactly what to do in an emergency situation.
Similarly, companies should run crisis simulations so that every employee understands what to do in a crisis event..
On top of facilitating day to day operational communication within a company, workforce management tools can support emergency communication preparedness in many ways:
- Leadership can share crisis response protocols through document sharing so every level of the organization is informed and prepared.
- They can give crisis task force leaders the ability to create group contact lists to prepare for any situation.
- The app creates a cloud-based network for vital information in a crisis when computers and email might not be accessible.
- Crisis task force leaders can use the communications tool to organize and run a crisis simulation, testing push notification alerts, and ensuring every employee receives messages with confirmation campaigns.
- Leaders can share simulation results with their entire staff to make improvements for when a real event strikes.
Being prepared is the first step in building organizational resilience that will get your company through any crisis.
3. Appoint a Crisis Communications Leadership Team
For crisis communication best practices to be most effective, create a crisis leadership team. Assemble a task force from across your organization to represent the unique needs of every team.
Be sure to include:
- C-Suite executives
- Internal lawyers
- PR team, either internal or an external firm
- Managers that represent a cross-section of your company
The upper levels, like your legal team and C-Suite, should be responsible for development of your enterprise risk management framework. Your managers should be responsible for sharing information with their reports. They should also ensure that every employee has a point person to connect with during a crisis.
4. Have Group Messaging Lists Ready
Every company has specific stakeholders they need to communicate with during a crisis. In the prehistoric days before smartphones, companies had to use a phone tree in order to spread the word and deal with a crisis.
Today, there are multiple ways to communicate instantly with your company, but some are more reliable than others. For example, in the case of a cybersecurity or an IT crisis, technical problems can eliminate your ability to use email.
With the average person checking their cell phone 85 times a day, a mobile communication app is the optimal solution for crisis communication. Group messaging is now the most reliable way to get your stakeholders’ attention.
5. Set Up Mobile Alerts To Stay Up-to-Date
If you run internal communications for your organization, it’s essential to get mobile alerts for press mentions. Being on the ball gives you the opportunity to take control of a PR crisis and put out social media fires before they start.
In today’s Twitter-obsessed world, 28% of all crises spread within an hour. Within one day they’ve gone international. That could signal the quick demise of a company’s hard climb to success if the fire is not extinguished quickly.
Whether it’s the press, your customers, or your employees, you need to know when something goes wrong as soon as it happens. Google and social media alerts give you the ability to quickly respond by:
- Having a crisis communication statement prepared in advance
- Putting the plan into action
- Crafting your response
- Disseminating your response to your stakeholders and the public
Smartphones have given crisis communicators enormous power to change the narrative about their company.
6. Be Transparent and Authentic in Your Response
In any type of internal communication strategy, transparency delivers higher employee engagement numbers which leads to all sorts of tangible returns, like greater productivity and innovation, and a bigger bottom line.
During a crisis, transparency is even more important. Being open and direct in communicating with employees is necessary for their safety in certain scenarios. But companies are still not prioritizing transparency in their crisis communication.
In the current COVID-19 global crisis, according to Gallup, only 39% of employees feel they are receiving clear communication from their companies.
Transparency with your employees builds trust. In an emergency, trust is what will unify your organization to power through the crisis with the support of your employees.
Pro tip: Build an internal content team to direct the narrative for your company during a crisis.
7. Have a Strong Online Presence
A digital tool will reach your internal stakeholders. Make sure the public is also in the loop on your crisis response strategy and align your internal and external messaging.
In today’s world, you need to have an online presence on at least the main social media networks, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It empowers you to control your narrative during any kind of scenario that can impact your business.
8. Be Adaptable and Agile
When the New York Times ran a Mother’s Day opinion piece about Nike’s less-than-stellar practice of not paying female athletes until they returned to active competition after giving birth, it was a PR nightmare for a company long respected for what they portrayed was a very pro-female value system. The public was quick to react and they were not happy. Nike made an about-face and changed its maternity leave policy.
Companies need to be adaptable—able to bend under the pressure of a crisis and change direction to survive.
9. Review Your Crisis Communication Best Practices
Once you’ve outlined your crisis communication strategy, don’t just shelve it where it will collect dust. Review your strategy at least twice a year and revise it as necessary.
Here’s why this is a good idea. The world is always changing. You might hear of a crisis halfway around the world that did not directly impact your business but is a potential threat down the road. Think about Volkswagen’s emissions scandal which turned into a PR crisis for a long-respected brand. Make sure your plan fits different scenarios. Read up on how other companies responded and study what made some crisis communication plans succeed and others fail.
10. Post-Crisis Communication: Have a Recovery Roadmap
When the crisis has passed, your team needs to stay aligned as your company returns to normal, or realizes your new normal.
Conduct a post-mortem. Figure out the gaps in your plan that slowed down your recovery or maybe fell short of returning to a normal level of operation and output.
Once you emerge from the crisis and enter recovery mode, use your internal communication tool to get back on track:
- Share your findings with your entire team to continue that sense of unity.
- Ask employees for their insight into the crisis from their perspective. Send out a survey to find out what worked well and what parts of the plan need improvement.
- Recognize people who went above and beyond and helped your company throughout the crisis.
Ultimately, your crisis communication best practices will help align your entire organization before, during, and after a difficult situation.