When a crisis occurs, top-level managers often tend to focus their communication efforts on the external audience. This usually comprises of journalists and customers/stakeholders, and such a focus is understandable. Handling the media is necessary when it comes to crisis management, especially in today’s era of social media where news travels at the speed of a tweet.
At times like these, most often the top management overlooks an integral part of overall communication management: internal communication. Communicating with your internal audience is equally essential when you are trying to contain and manage a crisis narrative.
The employees/internal team are probably going to be the first ones to be contacted by others during a crisis and their views and statements could possibly define the tone of the entire communication that your company sends out. Here is a handy tip sheet that you can use to ensure that your internal communication is as seamless as your external one.
Be Proactive: When it comes to crisis management, information is key as is who, when, and how you are sharing it with.
Sharing it with internal audience at the right time by the right person in a proper forum will go a long way in avoiding the spread of misinformation across the organization. Your employees want to know what is going on during a crisis, more than anyone else, as their livelihoods might be at stake. They want facts and the truth.
Plan of Action: Share a clear plan of action that demonstrates you are in control of the situation or managing it effectively. Things will move quickly in a crisis and you may want to tweak the plan accordingly which is fine. But every time you address the internal team, ensure your overall spirit is maintained and your tweaks respond to the situation at hand. They need to know that all of you are on the same side. That you are in it together.
Spokesperson: Who is sharing this information with your team is crucial to the management of the right information, fake news, and rumor mills. Bring out your best spokespersons from the leadership team to address the audience. Make sure it is someone who has a role to play in the decision making. Your internal audience needs to know they are important enough for the big guys to come out and address them.
Tonality: How you say things is almost as important as what you say. While you must share the true state of things in a matter of fact voice, choose to go with a tone of confidence and positivity when you are detailing out your company’s response and the way forward you intend to take.
Be Consistent and Clear: An internal communications blackout is the worst possible route to choose when dealing with a crisis. Communicate with your team on a regular basis. Talk to them about the crisis and be very clear on what they can expect and your team’s options for response. There should be no room for guesswork.
Put Guidelines: It is expected that the internal team will be reached out to for more news by the media as they try and get a unique angle on the story being covered. Share clear communication guidelines when it comes to communicating outside the company. By being open, consistent, and choosing to share this information proactively with your employees you will eliminate the risk of them trying to get the information themselves via other sources which will only spell trouble for the company. This will also eliminate the risk of internal rumors that find their way out of the company and into the media.
Understand that the internal workforce is one of the largest pools of unused resources that you can leverage during a crisis to change the entire tide and tone of the conversation. Leverage it well to your advantage.
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