5 Corporate Communications Best Practices for Crisis Situations

  • Categories:

    Public Relations

  • Date:

    April 22, 2020

5 Corporate Communications Best Practices for Crisis Situations

Public Relations

Strong communication is a hallmark of successful organizations. How companies connect with key audiences, including stakeholders, employees and customers, often determines how successful they are in implementing business strategies. During crisis situations, communication becomes even more critical.

If your company is forced to grapple with unforeseen business disruptors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, your external and internal communications may determine how your audience measures your company’s success or failure in handling the matter. The court of public opinion is especially harsh when companies fail to take even the most basic steps to enhance their communication efforts during a time of crisis. Remember, the coronavirus disrupted businesses of every size virtually overnight, while elevating the need to supply audiences with real-time information on the state of business operations.

“Building the plane while flying it” is a popular way to describe crisis communications, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The following tips are designed to help you take command of your company’s communication structure and refine the flow of clear, concise and consistent messaging during uncertain times.

One Voice

The “voice” of an organization is typically defined by its chief executive, and that is especially true during a crisis. He or she must demonstrate a clear command of the facts and the impact of those facts on business operations, then communicate with key audiences at regular intervals. Streamlining information flow through a single, credible voice also helps reassure audiences that the company is in control of the matter at hand.

Increased Frequency

Consider increasing the frequency of communications to internal audiences during times of crisis. When COVID-19 reached the United States, one privately held company with global operations shifted its monthly newsletter for stakeholders to a weekly format to keep this critical audience abreast of the virus’s impact on operations. The company also designed a similar weekly update on the state of business operations for associates and shifted non-timely and ongoing company updates to its intranet.

Consistent Messaging

Consistent messaging across all departments, from customer service and sales to corporate communications, is critical to ensure that your organization speaks with a unified voice. Consider creating fact sheets or FAQ to guide your departments in discussing how your company is managing the crisis.

Timely Collateral

Monthly and quarterly publications typically have longer lead times for production, making it critical that you consider how to make these publications relevant to the current climate. For example, if you have a quarterly publication scheduled for production just as a crisis is unfolding, consider adding a cover letter from your chief executive that acknowledges the current situation and how your company continues to stand ready as a trusted resource for its readers.

Respectful Content

View creative and social content through the lens of your customer to ensure planned messaging is not tone deaf or easy to misinterpret. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to unfold, there have been too many instances where a social media post or an advertisement planned weeks or months in advance appeared as scheduled, with little or no thought given to the reality on the ground.

From a national tragedy such as 9/11 to local and regional tragedies following natural disasters, how companies respond to crisis situations will determine how their audiences respond in kind. By following a few best practices designed to strengthen communication messages and channels, companies can minimize the negative effect of a crisis on its reputation and demonstrate to its audiences a commitment to navigating challenging times together.

Explore more articles from Wray Ward.