Crisis communication – do THIS
I’ve be reading some incredibly interesting material on communicating in a crisis and how to be handle adverse situations when it comes to leadership, businesses, clients and communities.
At the moment, it can seem impossible to communicate clearly and appropriately. Everyone feels they are simply trying to catch up and with daily government announcements; guidance being changed; unions, institutions and councils having their say…and having your own views and interpretations of the recommendations…well, it can be really difficult to create content which causes confusion rather than inform.
In this post, I am focussing on content that you create to make an announcement or indicate intention about something difficult or perhaps could be seen as controversial. Right now, this could be a reopening announcement with extensive restrictions, with the relaxing of the lockdown in the UK, for example. However, in future it could be an email to staff or loyal clients about a change to practices which may be inconvenient for some, …or worse the announcement of a closure, sharing sad news or the loss of jobs.
From all I’ve read, I have created my ‘Do THIS’ approach:
- be trustworthy
- be honest
- be informative
- be supportive
If your content follows these 4 steps then you have half a chance of communicating clearly, being supported by those reading the content, and not being misinterpreted.
Whatever the crisis or however difficult the message may be, any reader will want to feel like they can trust what is being said. It needs to be clear and it needs to come from a place of trust. If you have built a good business, your followers will hopefully trust you anyway but ensure that whatever you say emphasises this value. Share your reasons and your thoughts.
You don’t have to go in to every detail of your choice and the decisions behind what you are communicating. But when making a difficult announcement, base it wholly on the truth and, even better, back it up with the facts.
If it is appropriate, share how you feel and why you have chosen to do what you are doing. Most people will appreciate your honesty, especially if the announcement is difficult or controversial, and much prefer this to being left wondering why or what an earth drove you to a certain decision.
Be open and invite questions, because if you have done your homework and know that what you are communicating is critical and necessary, then you will have all of the answers – even if you accept there are a range of opinions.
Don’t skimp on the important information. Even if it means a lengthy post or email, don’t treat your audience like they won’t understand or worse still like the announcement is actually a covert ‘publicity stunt’. I have experienced businesses who treat employees like this – their decisions explained as ‘it’s the best for the company’ or ‘best for you in the long run’ – but what does that mean? It is usually not obvious in that moment and leaving people with lots of questions will only lead to frustration.
Whatever the crisis or critical change you need to communicate, it needs to be explained clearly. Don’t be cryptic. And furthermore, ask for help with the description or explanation as sometimes it can be really hard to explain simply if it is something you have been dealing with for a long time or that you have been completely wrapped up in.
Whilst the crisis may be directly affecting you more than anyone else, try to show your support to those you are communicating to. Acknowledge any anxiety or concerns what you have to say may cause. Accept that some people will not agree and consider ways you can ease any sense of anger or worry.
As far as possible, make people feel ‘safe in receipt of the new knowledge’, you are sharing. Reassure people about the change. Make them feel safe to continue to work for you, with you or buy from you, should that be the case in the future. Do all you can not to ‘burn bridges’, as the saying goes.
General but important considerations
I apologise in advance if the above descriptions seem a bit vague, but I wanted to make sure this post was as relevant and future proof as possible. Crisis communication comes in many forms – not just Covid-19 or social distancing related – but I hope if you are having to tackle issues surrounding this ‘new normal’ following my ‘Do THIS’ approach will offer some help when it comes to checking your messaging will be strong and clear.
Keep well all x