Communication during a crisis situation is most effective when it’s clear and consistent.
That’s why companies need to create a crisis communication plan that includes delivery methodologies, primary messages, as well as regular updates to ensure all communication throughout a crisis is strategic and thoughtful.
When companies don’t have a crisis communication plan and only communicate reactively to a situation, it can cause a lot of uncertainty, stress, and confusion for everyone.
The first step in creating a crisis communication plan is identifying the target audiences for the communication. Generally, there are five target audiences throughout any crisis: consumers, investors, employees, suppliers, and the rest of the public.
Every single audience is important, and companies need to recognize each one to ensure that everyone is getting the right compelling and informative messages.
Every single audience type is going to have its own stresses and concerns during a crisis situation and will want to know different things.
The employees might need to know whether they’ll be able to work from home, for instance, or if the business is going to continue to operate. The consumers might need to know that they’ll still be able to make purchases from the business.
The suppliers might need to know if the company is still going to be purchasing supplies, while the investors need to know whether the business leaders have a plan moving forward and that their investments are safe. Each audience type also has its own way of receiving information.
That means companies have to take into consideration that the information they’re going to be delivering to different audiences should be in different formats and channels, such as text-based formats for the company’s website, or video-based formats for social media platforms.
Not every audience type will want or even need to receive communication from the business every single hour, or every single day, but some definitely will.
It’s best that companies figure out how frequently each audience type needs to be updated about the crisis situations and deliver updates consistently.
Additionally, companies should also be thoughtful in the way that they provide essential information to each audience type, so that businesses don’t have to spend too much time responding to additional questions, and can work on solving the issue at hand instead.
Engaging Influential People
There’s no reason why the leadership team inside a business should bear all of the responsibility for the communications during the crisis. That’s why it’s important that companies create two different levels of communication for audiences.
For example, consumers are most likely to trust the salespeople or project managers.
That means the company should get a sales representative or manager to communicate the company’s messages to the consumers. On the other hand, the employees mostly look up to their direct managers, which means their manager should be delivering the company’s crisis communication to them.
These types of people have a lot of influence over whether the company’s crisis communication messages are going to be received clearly, and that’s why companies need to create different levels of communication for specific audiences.
As Co-CEO at 5W Public Relations, Dara Busch oversees 5W’s Consumer Practice, which includes Travel & Entertainment, Apparel & Accessories, Non-Profits, Home & Housewares, Health & Wellness, Mom & Baby, Beauty & Grooming, and Consumer Packaged Goods.