Getting the word out during a crisis

By Sue Voyles / March 18, 2020 /

Let’s focus on everything that happens behind the scenes before you ever even receive a crisis communication. In other words, the communication itself didn’t just appear (like some viruses); it is transmitted only after careful thought and assistance from professional communicators.

Understand that for companies large and small who are trying to manage a crisis, whether one of their own making or one over which they have no control, the communications challenges can be as real as the crisis itself. Yet sharing information with clients, customers, vendors and stakeholders is critical during this time.

Several questions need to be answered before sending a crisis communication. How much information should be shared? When is the best time to send this communication? Who should be receiving this?

Every situation is potentially unique and requires answers specific to what you are dealing with. Usually, we advise erring on the side of giving more information than less, often in the name of transparency, but also because deep down people crave knowledge in times of concern or trouble. Unfortunately, that can mean overly long messages, but if you know your audience, you will be able best to judge how much information is just right.

Timing also depends on the situation, where in the crisis you are at. You don’t want to be too early, but worse is being too late, at which point your message is considered insensitive to the needs of those you are trying to reach. It is most effective to send your message sooner rather than later. Often there is no real reason to wait other than delays by organizational leadership trying to resolve how and when to reach out to employees, customers or the public.

The final question about who should receive the message will be dictated by your organization’s size, the size of your audience and the scale of the crisis. In the end, however, it is best to reach as many people as possible and not limit information that might be critical to just a handful of people.

If you have a large customer base, that entire group, along with your employees, your supply-chain vendors and your stakeholders, should be made aware of any crisis that will impact their experience with your company or what you offer in terms of services.

Yes, it can be daunting to think about, plan and develop a crisis communication, but ultimately it will put your company in good stead with clients and customers looking to you for information and even potential answers.