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Crisis Communication Best Practices

Published on June 06, 2023

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Navigating a Crisis

In today's evolving business landscape, it's hard to predict when a disruption or crisis will happen. But it's likely to occur at one point or another. No business is immune to crises, but only those who plan for operational disruptions can survive and make it through. While every situation is unique, there are best practices to follow and learn from, especially regarding your crisis management plan.

How do you plan and manage crisis communications ? Since it plays a critical role in your crisis response plan, giving it enough thought and consideration is essential.

Read on and find out how to safeguard your organisation from the significant impact of a crisis and ensure continuity and operational resilience.

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What is Crisis Communication?

Crisis communication refers to the strategic management and planning of how to gather and disseminate critical information internally (to stakeholders and employees) and externally (to your customers and partners). A crisis communication plan (CCP) covers all the essential elements of handling operational disruptions, such as the extent of the threat presented by a crisis and how the organisation aims to handle those crises. It is also vital in ensuring the continuity of critical business processes.

Crisis Management Strategies

Crisis communication is just one part of the big puzzle called crisis management. Your crisis management plans must set impact tolerances for various operational disruptions, such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, data breaches, or public health emergencies. Your ability to develop a plan before the disaster strikes is essential and even crucial to business survival. However, an effective crisis communication strategy can also help demonstrate to your employees and customers that you are in control of the situation.

The how and what of your crisis communication strategy can help control the narrative of the events. Therefore, preparing ahead is imperative to access and disseminate accurate and timely information. It also ensures business continuity and will help mitigate the negative consequences of a crisis. In doing so, you can also protect the organisation's reputation and earn the trust of key stakeholders.

Crisis communication extends beyond communicating how and what you need to deal with a crisis. It shows proper coordination across various departments, not just for the crisis management team, and ensures a unified response to your organisation's crisis.

Essentials of a Good Crisis Communication Plan

We've all seen seemingly stable companies wounded and crumbling to the ground at the first major crisis they face. Don't let your organisation become one of them. Proactive communication during a crisis can help give your team more confidence when disruption hits.

What are the essential characteristics of an effective crisis communication plan? The most important thing is to stay in control. It's possible to become operationally resilient with the following characteristics.

  • Clarity: Your message during a crisis communication should be clear and concise. It should leave no room for wrongful assumptions or doubt from everyone in your team. It also reassures your team that you're giving them the necessary information. If you need help with your messages try running them through a AI summarizer to help your message be clear and concise.
  • Control: Your crisis communication should demonstrate that you have everything in your power. Control does not just refer to knowing what to do but also to ensuring you control who gets the information and when.
  • Concern: Your crisis message should show empathy and aim at minimising the potential impact of operational disruption on your business and its employees.
  • Confidence: Aside from clarifying your message, it should be expressed confidently. It should reflect your confidence in your decision and messaging because you've spent time analysing the situation.
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Best Practices for Crisis Communication

Crisis communication best practices are key to achieving operational resilience and recovery from operational disruptions. You can adopt these best practices for your crisis communications, whether for existing or potential crises.

Build a Crisis Management Team

While it might be possible to create and implement a CCP without a specialised team, doing so with experts in crisis communications would likely result in a much more robust and effective plan. A crisis communication team, or CC team, ensures an accurate and smooth flow of information internally and externally.

Forming your CC team requires a solid understanding of employees' various skill sets to align with the responsibilities for each designated role.

Ideally, it would be best to involve senior executives and upper levels of leadership in any crisis communication strategy. The more managerial and leadership support you get in the crisis management process, the more likely it is to succeed.

Once you have formed the team, they are responsible for analysing the scope and nature of the crisis your organisation are most vulnerable to. They will also formulate strategies in response to the crisis according to potential impact and key areas that ensure continuity and operational resilience.

Utilise Internal Communication Tools

Employ digital communication platforms to support your crisis communication, especially internal communications. Access to these tools ensures internal alignment to have a unified communication response to a crisis.

Most organisations employ a mobile-first approach to internal communications. It is one of the most straightforward and accessible tools for employees and team members. You should identify where to access employee contact information during a crisis in order to reach them and coordinate your communication plan easily.

Aside from having a database of contact information for employees, you can also use communication tools to set up alerts and notifications for your employees. It facilitates faster and more efficient communication for everyone in your team so you are updated in real-time and on the same page about your crisis response measures. Use technology to its advantage to optimise how you manage an incident.

C2 Meridian's Incident Management/Notification tool is ideal for ensuring timely and updated information is dispersed to the concerned individuals. With various communication methods available, such as text, email, text-to-voice messaging, call conferencing, and real-time bulletin boards, it helps ensure that anyone has access to the communication channels readily available to them.

The tool gives all team members access to an incident dashboard where all information you need about the incident is organised and accessed. It contains critical communication, including checklists for each incident type and tracking progress. Therefore, every team member knows exactly what is being done to handle the crisis, what else they need to do, or if there are any changes to the incident management approaches. This tool empowers your organisation in the best way possible to streamline your crisis communication, ensure no critical information is left out, and help maintain operational resilience, regardless of the severity of the incident.

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Keep Your Messages Consistent

Your messages during a crisis should be consistent throughout all levels of the organisation. It is most important when doing internal communications because you want every organisation member to be on the same page.

As mentioned, you should establish internal communication tools as part of your crisis response strategy. It facilitates easy and direct internal communication so everyone knows what to do and when.

Assigning different roles to your team members, even those not part of the crisis team, to give them a sense of value and accountability. This transparency keeps everyone engaged as you attempt to overcome operational disruption.

A 2020 study revealed that 63% of employees expect daily updates from their organisations during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 23% expected to receive multiple updates throughout the day. Make it a habit to communicate as often as necessary, especially when constant information changes occur.

Finally, your messaging should be consistent with your actions. Do not add to the confusion among your employees by saying one thing and then acting in a different direction. You should follow your crisis response and communication strategy for effective results.

Know What to Communicate (And What Not To)

Communication is a complex concept. You can communicate from what you're saying as much as from what you're not. Ensure you know how to manage both during a crisis.

First, identify what to communicate to your crisis response team and other employees. Then, find the essential information to inform them on how to move forward with the next step in your crisis communication plan. Focus on transparency and being timely in relaying information. Time is critical during a crisis, and your ability to communicate promptly could spell the difference and ensure operational resilience.

Also, you must be transparent with your team about what you don't know as much as the information you know! No matter how much planning you do, you can't have the answers to everything. So it's okay to admit that you're handling your crisis management step by step.

It won't hurt to admit that you don't know everything; it could hurt your organisation's reputation even more when you claim you do. You have to trust the team you've picked to become a part of your crisis communication to help you figure out the situation and how to manage it best.

Delegate Responsibilities to Avoid Miscommunication

As a leader, it is easy to become overwhelmed by crisis communication if you take on everything alone. Therefore, delegating tasks and responsibilities is essential.

Delegating avoids miscommunication because you know that the responsibilities are in the right hands. If possible, designate one individual with the right expertise to handle different aspects of your business continuity and crisis response. For example, you must consult with your legal and crisis communication experts to ensure compliance and avoid actions that could cause more problems.

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Leverage Communication Channels

Consistent communication is essential during times of crisis. Make it a part of your operational resilience framework, especially when it comes to handling external communication.

C2 offers a streamlined solution for your team to stay abreast of the latest updates about your incident management efforts as it happens. Your team can access this all-in-one system to make internal communications relevant and timely. But don't neglect your external communications effort during a crisis.

Talking to your audience about your business in times of crisis is critical for your credibility. It could save your organisation's reputation when properly executed, allowing you to maintain a good public relations standing.

During times of uncertainty when confusion is rife, communicating to your stakeholders is critical to your organisation's reputation. External communication during a crisis helps to strengthen your relationships with stakeholders. It is a great way to reassure them that you've set impact tolerances for a similar situation, performed a risk assessment, and have a plan set in place in the event of such disruption.

Moreover, an efficient external communication system provides clarity where confusion often thrives. For example, being transparent about changes to your operational hours and operating capacity will give stakeholders and your customers a better sense of what your business is currently going through. It also reduces the risk of false rumours going around that could hurt your reputation and make you lose the trust of critical stakeholders.

In addition, you can optimise your external communications to manage expectations. Being open and transparent with your communication demonstrates that you have things in control and that you're going the best you can to manage them. On the other hand, being quiet and not making a statement about an incident could invite speculation.

Once you have made the commitment to communicate, do it regularly. It's not good to do it once and then leave them hanging for updates. If you have any major updates, it makes the most sense to deliver that message in real-time to reassure your customers and stakeholders.

Evaluate Your Crisis Communication and Response

Once you've overcome the crisis, the next step is to evaluate the results and determine where you can improve to handle similar problems better if they occur in the future. Reflect on these questions:

  • What can we improve on next time?
  • What can we do without?

Post-crisis evaluation is an integral part of an effective crisis management strategy. Use any insight and data you have access to for making improvements in the future.

C2 Crisis communication plan

Now You Have Crisis Communication Plans What's Next?

Adopting the best practices for crisis communication will give you confidence in knowing how to handle disruptions. Of course, these best practice recommendations won't guarantee that everything will be smooth sailing. Still, it ensures you can respond quickly and mitigate operational risks to effectively avoid intolerable harm to the organisation. Every operational risk varies in shape and magnitude, so you must adapt your approach accordingly.

Communication is the first step in executing your crisis management strategies and building operational resilience. Without clear and transparent communication, everything you've prepared for may go to waste. Having a crisis communications plan in place also helps earn the confidence of internal and external stakeholders, your customers, and the general public, as you have things under control in the face of adversity.

If you need more help with your crisis communication plans and strategies, you need BCM software to streamline how you handle communication. Choose C2 as your BCM partner and maximise the features of the world's leading business continuity software. Get in touch and request a demo today and discover what it can do for your organisation!

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Written by Lisa McStay

Chief Operating Officer at Continuity2

As a proud COO of Continuity2, Lisa strives to provide intuitive and innovative solutions for the Business Resilience market and reshape the industry as we know it today. Lisa has been in the industry for over 10+ years, helping clients achieve their Business Continuity and Resilience objectives for continuous growth and success.

C2 Author Lisa 1
C2 Author Lisa 1

Written by Lisa McStay

Chief Operating Officer at Continuity2

As a proud COO of Continuity2, Lisa strives to provide intuitive and innovative solutions for the Business Resilience market and reshape the industry as we know it today. Lisa has been in the industry for over 10+ years, helping clients achieve their Business Continuity and Resilience objectives for continuous growth and success.