Times of crisis require a shift in communications. You may recall after 9/11 that advertising and messaging took on a more somber tone at first, then focused on strength (“United We Stand”), vigilance (“If you see something, say something”) and later, remembrance (“Never Forget”). During the Great Recession of the late 2000s, everything from banks to mattress stores would preface their messaging with “In these tough economic times…” Communication doesn’t exist in a vacuum, after all, and businesses and organizations have to adjust their strategy according to what’s going on around them – including crises. And that applies to internal communications, as well.
You may have a good handle on your day-to-day internal communications, but during a crisis – whether it’s happening inside or outside your organization – you’ll need to pivot more than just your tone. Here are 10 tips to keep your employees informed, safe and at ease amid a crisis.
1. Be proactive
Don’t wait for your employees to come to you. Anticipate their needs and decide how you plan to respond, before the need arises.
A great way to do this is by creating an FAQ. Put yourself in an employee’s shoes and imagine questions he or she may want answered. Come up with your answers to those questions, then communicate them accordingly.
2. Ensure accuracy
Misinformation and hearsay are some of the biggest challenges to crisis communications. We live in an age of information overload, which can make it difficult to decipher who and what to believe. As the famous quote goes, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
Make sure that you, the communicator, are giving accurate information, but also that employees know where to get their information should they seek it on their own. Provide employees with a list of resources where they can find verified, up-to-date information. Use only official sources and avoid hearsay.
3. Be swift
The only constant during a crisis is change. Find the right balance between being thoughtful and strategic with your internal communications, but also getting the necessary information across in a timely manner. Stay updated on the latest developments and convey them to your employees appropriately. The longer you wait, the more things can change even further, and your employees are left to make their own assumptions. However, never sacrifice accuracy for timeliness. “Speed is of the essence when it comes to crisis communications, but it shouldn’t come at the price of accuracy,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
4. Watch your tone
Tone is of the essence in your internal crisis communications. Opt for one that’s assertive yet assuring. The exact tone you choose will depend on the crisis at hand, but make sure it’s appropriate for the situation. You don’t want to be too lighthearted about serious matters, or vice versa. Before sending out any communications, have a colleague check the tone and see if they think it’s fitting.
5. Say something rather than nothing
Abandon the notion of “no news is good news” when it comes to internal crisis communications. A sudden lack of communication during a crisis can be alarming. Employees may begin to assume the worst. If there’s a matter you feel you should address but have limited or no information, it’s best to let employees know that you’re aware of the issue and are working on it. If you can, explain the challenge and give a timeline for when you expect to have more information.
6. Be transparent
Being transparent doesn’t have to mean divulging every single piece of information. But it does mean being as transparent as you can possibly be. It also means being transparent about what you don’t know.
Internal communications should always be a two-way street, especially during a crisis. Have an open door policy and encourage employees to speak up with their questions, concerns and feedback. And don’t just listen – respond to what they have to say with action.
8. Use the right channels
Email is no longer the sole means of communication between employers and employees. Make sure you’re using channels that your employees use, pay attention to and check frequently. That may be email, or it may be Slack, an in-person meeting, a conference call, handouts or printed signage. It may also be digital signage, which allows you to display dynamic messaging throughout the workplace using various apps. You may need to use more than one channel to really get the message across.
9. Align your internal and external communications
If necessary, let employees know what information needs to be kept within the organization and what you plan on telling the media and the public. This is an important step that’s often overlooked, and it can lead to the unfortunate scenario of employees finding something out elsewhere that they should’ve heard directly from their employer. Also make sure what you’re saying internally and externally are in alignment and there’s no mixed messaging. You’ll maintain everyone’s trust and your business’ integrity.
10. Continue the conversation
After the crisis is over, don’t make employees feel forgotten by ceasing your internal communications efforts. Keep the conversation going. Thank everyone for their understanding and cooperation, reflect on what’s been learned and look ahead to what’s next – and just like that, a crisis becomes the start of a beautiful relationship.
Digital signage for internal communications
Whether there’s a crisis or not, digital signage is the best internal communications tool out there. Request a demo of CrownTV’s digital signage solutions and see for yourself.