5 simple steps to manage communication in a crisis


John Pilkington | 10. Juni 2020

When a crisis hits, communication is key.

When it comes to managing communication in a crisis, the amount of information going around can be overwhelming. Changes can happen without warning, policies might be rewritten and communication workflows could even break down.

This was the challenge facing companies around the globe when the COVID-19 pandemic forced country after country to go into lockdown, requiring businesses of all sizes in almost every industry to quickly – and drastically – adapt their practises.

Here are five simple steps we put into practice to support our client (a global logistics brand with a presence in every country on the planet) in their communications and social media strategy, both internally and externally.

1. Establish an effective daily update meeting

This step is a simple, but essential step in any crisis communication strategy – and should probably be the first thing you do. A daily update meeting will help you and other stakeholders align, keep each other updated on developments from each participant’s area of responsibility and provide a platform for asking any open questions which may arise.

Of course, daily updates meetings are nothing new, but making the meeting as effective as possible is not easy. Two elements to consider are participants and timing.

  • Invite only those stakeholders who are essential, who are decision-makers and who will have regular updates to share (and trust that those present will then brief teammates and other colleagues).
  • In addition, try to schedule the update either at the beginning or end of the working day – our client update was scheduled for 16:30 every day (a happy accident rather than something we planned), which gave us the opportunity to share developments from the workday and then prepare for the following next.

2. Assign a dedicated topic owner

Another step you can take to organise your team and help to manage communication is to assign roles and responsibilities. It is essential to have a dedicated topic owner per team, who is then able to attend update meetings and later pass along messages and brief the rest of the team. The rest of the team can then direct new information or updates to one specific team member quickly and effectively.

3. Set up a dedicated communication channel

Naturally, when it came to the coronavirus, almost every team in our agency was affected. We therefore had multiple updates across various teams, which created a challenge for anyone trying to keep up. It was also a struggle for affected teams to align or liaise with one another.

To counter this, we set up a dedicated Slack channel, where each topic owner could post an update from their team. News updates that might have a bearing on our work or that of our client were also shared and discussed in this communication stream, keeping everyone involved up-to-date and allowing for the quick sharing of information.

4. Communicate clearly and directly with customers

When a crisis hits, it can cause disruptions and delays, which challenge the level of service that customers have come to expect of a brand. Maintaining trust with customers is crucial during unpredictable times – and open communication is key to doing so.

Our client’s corporate communication team was working hard to provide a range of sales and marketing professionals with regularly-updated and detailed FAQs for both the press and business customers. We were able to support our client by turning these statements into short, concise sentences that were easy for our audience to understand, in order to keep communication on our social media channels clear and transparent.

5. Understand customer needs and concerns

Important feedback we were able to give in our daily updates was how the changing situation was impacting our client’s customers. We monitored complaints, comments and sentiment across our social media channels and created daily tallies to quickly spot any problem areas or regions. We were able to then continually suggest new responses to help the client keep reacting to and adapting to the crisis.

This also evolved to include some lower-level competitor monitoring to see how customers of our other companies were responding to the crisis at hand, which gave us another perspective on how best we could communicate changes to the customers.

We were also then able to adapt our social media strategy and tell stories that our followers wanted to read and engage with, by curating content to deliver positive stories from the brand, which were warmly received.

Looking for input on your communication or social media strategy?

Reach out to us at Rheindigital.

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