Crises occur when people least expect them. Preparing your business for a crisis is the best way to protect the safety of your employees and ensure limited operational interruptions. A crisis communication plan is a proactive way to prepare your business for whatever life has in store.
Few people can anticipate when an incident will evolve into a full-blown crisis. COVID-19, also known as coronavirus or novel coronavirus, has affected millions of people around the globe. Governments and businesses are scrambling to adapt to a world besieged by pandemic. During times of crisis, having a designated crisis communication plan for handling the situation can make a world of difference for your employees and your business.
What is Crisis Management?
Crisis management is a framework that allows businesses to deal with issues that can drastically affect their operations. Businesses with such procedures in place will be prepared to face each stage of the crisis and minimize its impact on business continuity.
All kinds of things can affect your business, but few are as impactful as a crisis. You can think of a crisis as something that influences stakeholders to perceive trouble for your business. The word “perceive” here is important; sometimes an incident doesn’t even need to happen for your business to experience a crisis. Effective crisis communication and management is about responding to how people feel about your business.
Three Stages of Crisis Management
When thinking about crisis management, you should divide your approach to address the three stages of a crisis. Each stage of a crisis requires a unique response, and internal communicators should prepare for each one differently to maximize the effectiveness of their business’s overall response.
You should prepare your business for a crisis before it even occurs. Developing a crisis management plan should be your priority during these times. Your crisis communication strategy will include roles and responsibilities for a crisis team, pre-drafted communications and forms, and lists of established communication channels.
The pre-crisis stage should also include exercises to test your business’s crisis management plan so that you can make changes or improvements. On at least an annual basis, perform a simulated crisis situation to gauge the effectiveness of your crisis management plan. Develop your simulated crisis by researching crises that could affect your business and then create a timeline of events your team will have to navigate.
When responding to a crisis, your course of action should be two-pronged. People actively search for information during a crisis situation, so your ability to respond quickly as an employer is crucial. Having established communication channels and pre-drafted responses allows your company to focus on communicating accurate information. The focus of your initial response should be:
- Addressing safety concerns
- Delivering accurate-as-possible information
- Having a consistent message and voice
- Expressing sympathies if needed
After the crisis has ended, your follow-up response should focus on repairing the reputation of your business. Remember, crisis management is about maintaining the public perception of your business; your image may suffer if your employees are left to guess about the company’s official position on the crisis. If your initial response went as planned, your follow-up response should have the same consistent message and tone.
The post-crisis phase is a period for reviewing and revising your crisis management plan. This can include examining which communications channels were effective and which were not. By measuring the reach of your pre-drafted messages, you can refine your crisis communication plan for the next time the unexpected occurs.
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How to Create a Crisis Communication Plan
An essential part of crisis management is creating a crisis communication plan. This is a document that delegates responsibilities in a crisis situation, provides predetermined procedures to be followed, and includes pre-drafted templates for statements. Your crisis communication plan is crucial for responding quickly to a situation and minimizing its potential impact on your business.
When you are creating your crisis communication plan, it helpful to ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of crisis could my business face?
- Who is responsible for communication?
- Who is affected by a crisis?
- How is a crisis communication implemented?
- How do I measure its effectiveness?
Could your business benefit from a crisis communication plan? If you are unsure about what is included in a crisis communication plan, or how to create one for your business, then check out our crisis communication plan guidelines.
Communicating During a Crisis
Effective crisis communication is an essential aspect of crisis management. Your ability to disseminate consistent and reliable information to internal and external stakeholders will be a key factor for how your business fares during a crisis. Crisis communication is an essential part of any crisis management plan.
When your business is faced with a crisis, information becomes your most important resource. How people feel about your business is dependent on what they know about the situation. Crisis communication is a set of guidelines and procedures that inform how your business disseminates information during each stage of a crisis. Staying up to date on crisis communication best practices is crucial for effective crisis management.
Crisis Management in the Age of Coronavirus
The World Health Organization has designated the coronavirus as a global pandemic. Many businesses are facing unique challenges while working to protect their employees and continue operations. Where possible, more businesses are opting for work from home strategies, which present new internal communications challenges.
As it stands, coronavirus is a threat to everyone’s health, and understanding the correct procedures to slow its spread and flatten the curve should be everyone’s top priority.
How you communicate information to your employees is crucial. No two crises are the same, and determining the severity of a crisis will inform how your organization and its members react. A crisis can have three major consequences for a business:
- Safety risk for the public and employees
- Financial risk for the business
- Reputational risk for the business
Addressing safety risks will influence how you handle the other two risks. Safety risks for the public and your employees will have the biggest impact on your business’s image, which can increase the financial and reputational risk your business faces.
Let’s look at risk management through the context of the coronavirus pandemic. You need to communicate clearly to your employees what precautions they need to take to protect their safety. If your messaging is ineffective, your employees will not have confidence in your business’s response to the situation. Not only will your business’s productivity suffer, the public’s perception of your business will be negatively impacted if you handle a crisis poorly.
An important part of your crisis communication plan is having pre-drafted communications prepared before a situation occurs. Your ability to effectively communicate with your employees during a crisis is vital. Employees must adhere to their business’s crisis protocol, as failure to do so can risk injury.
Having an internal communication template for crisis response allows you to save time creating internal communications so you can focus on assessing the situation and gathering accurate information.
Sample Pre-Drafted Communication
You can use pre-drafted communications for all kinds of internal communications in addition to crisis management. Email newsletter templates can take the guesswork out of designing effective internal communications. Quickly disseminate information, build your brand voice, and increase employee engagement with beautiful email communications using responsive HTML newsletter templates.
During a crisis, your employees will be searching for information about the situation. To avoid the spread of misinformation, your crisis management plan should include procedures for regular information releases. Crisis situations can make people anxious; alleviate that anxiety with scheduled email communications. By providing regular updates, you provide a reliable source of information for your employees to consult.
Being consistent builds credibility in the eyes of your employees. Scheduled emails can be a significant part of the process. Using ContactMonkey, you can analyze at what times your internal communications are being opened, and adjust your scheduled release time to maximize how many people are seeing your emails.
How to Measure the Success of Crisis Communications
No matter how much preparation you put into your crisis management plan, there will always be situations that present unique challenges for your business. Your internal communications plan is only as strong as the work you put into it. Performance-based iterations of your crisis communication strategy are important aspects of crisis management. Here are two effective ways to measure your crisis communications:
Determining how successful your crisis communications are can be a challenge. If you’re sending out emails to thousands of people around the world, knowing whether your information is being received and considered can be a guessing game without the proper tools.
Take the guesswork out of the process with tracking metrics provided by ContactMonkey. Determine who did and didn’t read the email and find out how many employees viewed your crisis communication and clicked on links contained within the message.
By analyzing your crisis communications using ContactMonkey, you can learn what content is effective for your employees and increase your employee engagement. Metrics are a crucial tool for revising your crisis management plan during the post-crisis phase.
The feedback you receive from your employees is essential for optimizing your crisis management plan. One important aspect of the post-crisis phase is reviewing the success of your crisis response. Your internal communications during a crisis provide vital information to everyone in your business; what better way to measure the effectiveness of your crisis communication than getting feedback directly from your employees?
You can learn your employee’s feelings about your crisis management through various methods. Distributing a questionnaire is a common way of gathering information from large groups of people. Questionnaires can provide your business with detailed information about your employees, and can allow them to submit their thoughts and suggestions.
ContactMonkey allows internal communicators to embed survey tools in their communications, providing them with real-time feedback. Employees can respond to pulse surveys using emoji reactions, or by leaving comments. Want to see more? Book a free demo with one of our experts and try ContactMonkey yourself!
How to Use ContactMonkey for Crisis Communication
Although many employers and internal communicators have crisis management plans in place, few businesses feel prepared to deal with a crisis. Each situation presents new challenges for your business and you need to be able to adapt your plan accordingly. ContactMonkey’s internal communications tool allows businesses to assess their crisis communications and improve their effectiveness.
ContactMonkey’s template builder is perfect for creating pre-drafted crisis communications before a situation occurs. Schedule email releases to increase employee engagement and boost confidence in your internal comms. In-depth email metrics allow internal communicators to determine the reach of their emails, who is and isn’t opening them, how long they are being read, and other useful information. Receive feedback from your employees using pulse surveys, emoji-reactions, and anonymous comments.
TL;DR: Crisis Communication
How your business is able to cope with a crisis will depend on how you prepare. A crisis communication plan is an essential part of a business’s defence against operational interruption. Your crisis communication plan should help you
- assign roles and responsibilities for a crisis situation;
- determine reliable channels for internal communication;
- create pre-drafted communications;
- collect feedback from your employees; and
- optimize the effectiveness of your response.
Don’t wait until a crisis situation occurs to optimize your crisis management plan. Being proactive can save time and money in the future, and internal communicators should constantly be updating and testing their effectiveness of their crisis communication.
Useful Crisis Communication Resources:
Let ContactMonkey help you get the most out of your internal communications; sign up for a free demo today and try ContactMonkey’s internal communications tool for yourself!