The disruption that natural disasters and emergencies have on organisational operations are some of the most costly challenges faced in business continuity and crisis management.
In order to effectively combat these challenges, organisations need a streamlined and scalable cloud-communications platform to enforce the tactics required to respond with impact.
Whispir has spent the past two decades helping organisations to automate and manage their business-critical communications. This article outlines lessons we’ve learned and explores how effective communication strategies are essential to help mitigate the impact of incidents and crisis situations and, to a lesser extent, maintain an organisation's reputation.
Have a plan
Before any potential crises even occur, your first step should be to ensure a detailed crisis response strategy is in place, including the allocation of specific tasks that need to occur in the event of a crisis and a plan for post-crisis communication. It’s crucial that this process facilitates two-way internal communications throughout the organisation - enabling senior leadership team members to promptly make informed decisions while keeping staff aware of evolving situations and appropriate plans. The key objectives during any crisis are to protect any individual (employee or public) who may be at risk, ensure all stakeholders are kept informed, and that, ultimately, the organisation survives.
Have a single source of truth
It’s important for organisations to have a ‘single source of truth’ so that both internal and external stakeholders know where to go to access the latest information. Any company spokesperson or member of your crisis management team needs to be identified, media trained and kept up-to-date with the evolving situation to ensure media, staff, customers and the public are informed with a clear, consistent message.
80 per cent of time spent managing communications is used figuring out what to say. By taking the time to prepare communication templates in advance, organisations are well-placed to provide a quick response and reduce the risk of the negative effect of poor communication.
Be transparent and open
In the digital age, it’s no longer possible to hope that information can be kept from the media or the general public, nor that the dissemination of information will come solely from you. A policy of openness and transparency is essential to maintaining trust during a crisis, and for managing public relations without causing reputational damage. This transparency must be consistent across all company communications - news interviews, social media, internal announcements, general media relations, etc.
In crises, people are under unprecedented pressure which impacts decision making. Sterile and impersonal corporate responses fail. Stakeholders want to engage with organisations that are empathetic to the challenges people find themselves in, so make sure your crisis communication team is briefed and trained on providing a human-centric response.
Keep employees informed
Employees are often a conduit to keeping risk communication flowing between stakeholders. It’s essential to ensure employees are informed with regular updates to prevent the circulation of incorrect information and potentially negative statements, including providing additional information as soon as it becomes available. The benefits of engaging the edge of the organisation often lead to valuable new insights.
Customer and supplier communications
Important information on any crisis scenarios should reach your customers and suppliers directly from you, not the media. Part of any crisis communication plan needs to include processes to inform these vital stakeholders, and how to effectively update them throughout the incident.
Update early and often
Be proactive with sharing news, even when the whole picture isn’t clear. It is better to over-communicate than to allow silence and rumours to fill the void. Start with summary statements that make it clear what is initially known and provide updated action plans and new developments as early and as often as possible. Set expectations for when people will receive communications – i.e. every two hours or daily.
Ensure all channels that your stakeholders use reflect the same message and content, not just traditional avenues such as media releases and the company website. Few things are as damaging and hard to address than incorrect information being live-tweeted without your ability to see and respond with facts and appropriate messaging.