Organizational Communications Posts

How Your Organization Can Become Stronger through a Crisis

Paul Barton Communications Crisis Communication

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill

It isn’t a matter of IF, but WHEN, a crisis will occur at your organization.

During a crisis, organizations are usually primarily concerned about the potential damage to their public image. As a result, many organizations focus their communication externally on the news media and social media channels.

But the employee audience is just as important! They are directly involved in the crisis recovery efforts, and employees serving as brand ambassadors can also affect an organization’s public image. Here’s how effective internal communication during a crisis can have many positive effects:

  • Clear, concise, timely, accurate and consistent employee messaging helps ensure an appropriate and quick response to a crisis, and reduces or eliminates rumors and false information.
  • Saves an organization time and money by helping employees eliminate mistakes and inefficiencies in their recovery efforts.
  • Allows employees to know how well their organization is responding to a crisis, which enhances credibility and trust in the organization.
  • Affects employee perceptions about the organization and thus affects motivation and long-term employee engagement.

Being able to manage a crisis is critical for every organization. By effectively communicating to external and internal audiences, your organization can emerge from a crisis with an even-stronger brand image and even greater commitment from employees.

Want to hear more? Tune in to a free Art of Communication teleseminar hosted by Michele Richardson of Inciteful Communications on July 24. Here are the details.

Crisis Communication Training: You can learn how to create a comprehensive crisis communication plan in our “Be Your Best When Facing the Worst” workshop.

Other Resources on This Topic: Paul was interviewed on the ICology podcast about his thoughts on crisis communication for internal audiences. He also was interviewed by the popular StaffConnect blog and had his blog on Top 5 Crisis Communication Mistakes reposted in the IABC Communication World Magazine. And there is a chapter on communicating to employees during a crisis in “Maximizing Internal Communication: Strategies to Turn Heads, Win Hearts, Engage Employees and Get Results.”

Crisis Communication: Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid

PitfallWhen you’re out of time, under pressure and the stakes are high, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are some common crisis communication pitfalls and tips to avoid them.

(1) Waiting Too Long: Some business leaders think they need to wait to get all the facts verified before they say anything to the news media, their customers and their employees. What they should do is get out in front of a crisis right away to establish themselves as the most credible information source. It’s OK to say, “We are still collecting all the facts, but we are aware of this incident, and we are making sure that all our employees and customers are safe and sound. We promise to keep you updated as soon as we have all the facts.”

(2) Forgetting Employees: Some organizations are so focused on getting statements to the news media and other external audiences that they forget about their own employees. This is a big mistake because it is quite often employees who determine how fast and how fully an organization will recover from a crisis. And, of course, it is employees who are the face of the organization to the customers. Employees can be great and credible advocates for the organization if they have the right information.

(3) Forgetting to Care First: In the rush to get facts out, some organizations forget the importance of addressing the emotional side of a crisis. Until people know that you care, they don’t care what you know. You need to establish that you care early on with a statement such as “Our immediate concern is for the safety and well-being of our employees and our customers. Our hearts go out to the victims.”

(4) Failure to Build Social Media Relationships: Social media is becoming increasingly important. Many organizations fail to build strong relationships on social media channels ahead of a crisis. Having these relationships when you need them the most can help avoid a rumor turning into a viral nightmare overnight.

(5) Failure to Practice: Many organizations have a plan, but they don’t conduct regular drills. Phone numbers and contacts get out of date, pre-gathered supplies get lost, and key players don’t know where to go and what to do. A failure to prepare can turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Solution: practice, practice, practice.

The best way to avoid these and other crisis communication pitfalls is to have great communication strategies and a great plan.