The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses around the world into crisis mode. Between navigating stimulus funding, adjusting to remote work and just trying to keep the lights on, businesses are moving fast – but at what cost to employees and internal communications?
When dealing with loss of revenue and uncertainty about the future, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of knee jerk reactions that leave internal teams in the dark. This can be avoided by taking both internal and external communications into account when developing a response to any given crisis. This way, an expert communications team can keep a company’s reputation intact, prevent damaging headlines and keep an organization up to date without sacrificing the long-earned trust and support of internal stakeholders.
Five Tips for Communicating Internally During a Crisis
- Establish a process. Proactively develop a crisis plan before you need it and use it as a guide when challenging circumstances arise. This should include an internal communications plan that answers questions like: What channels do you use to share information with colleagues? How often will you update them? Where can people go for questions?
- Identify a point person or group. It’s important to have a carrier of internal information who can be seen as a resource by staff for any and all questions that may arise. Many companies have stood up a “COVID-19 Task Force” to manage the situation and navigate new issues as they arise.
- Share what you know early and often. When it comes to questions around how a crisis impacts an individual’s job, people need to receive clear, concise and compassionate updates on a regular basis. Don’t have an update to share? Let staff know that next steps are being developed and updates will be provided as soon as possible. It’s critical that your employees see you as proactive and on top of the situation.
- Encourage a dialogue, then go one step further. Internal communications are not a one-way street. Make sure employees have a colleague they can go to with questions and provide them with the opportunity to make suggestions as needed. Keep in mind that people need peer-to-peer contact. To provide that, our culture team has planned events ranging from virtual tea times to virtual B-I-N-G-O. We recommend employing similar strategies for engaging employees and colleagues.
- Remind people of organizational goals and objectives. During a crisis, people need to be reminded of the greater mission and of how much their employer cares. Make sure to engage staff on both a personal and organizational level. Highlighting the great work of colleagues through social media can be a great way to engage staff and drum up excitement.
While every business must tailor a unique approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, these steps will help kick-start effective crisis management and internal communications. Our team of PR professionals is available to help you develop communications strategies, identify avenues to engage staff or build content to carry an important message.
This blog is the second in a series of six blogs produced by the firm’s healthcare practice. You can read the other blogs in the series here:
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.