Tips for Communicating in a Crisis

Tracy Borreson on March 15, 2020

In our current environment of pandemics, and with the catastrophic event season coming up, we thought it would be timely to compile a list of some of our best practices for communicating in uncertain times. 

At SPLICE, we try to help our clients be proactive with their messaging. The truth of the matter is, not every situation (like the current COVID-19 crisis), can be predicted. With the right tools in place, your reactive messaging can be equally supportive for your brand and customers; building trust, calm and a sense of safety.

Let's get right to the tips...

1. Define WHO is responsible for the communication

The first, and most important thing to do, is to identify WHO in your organization is responsible for your communication. Whether it's a Privacy Officer, or the Marketing Manager, identifying to that person, even after the crisis has begun, that THEY are the go to person, is important.

In a crisis, this is their primary role over and above any other function. 

2. Communicate effectively across channels

Different customers internalize your message in different ways. Which means it's important to make sure that all of the communication during a crisis is well-aligned throughout the company. 

You may have different people communicating to the masses, to prospects, to clients, to vendors. And you may be communicating with people via email, phone, text and social channels. And while messaging consistency is essential, you don't want processes and controls to hinder the distribution of messages (message distribution strategies are discussed more below). 

One of the simplest strategies to use here is:

  1. for your WHO to communicate directly to all employees what is being done by your business and how this should be communicated externally (ideally with very specific words). 
  2. to provide your employees the autonomy and accountability to respond within that framework. 

Of course, this means that you really need to have a business environment and hiring practices that support #2. If you currently don't, then all communication should be filtered through your WHO (obviously a much greater workload on your WHO, which may not allow for the next two tips). 

Communicate sooner rather than later

Melissa Agnes, crisis management strategist says, "The longer you take to effectively communicate in times of viral issue and crisis, the more control over the narrative you lose, [and] the more trust and credibility you lose with those who matter most to your brand." AKA, your customers. 

You make think that it's more important to make sure you have everything under control before you communicate anything. The problem is, while you're waiting, your customers are making assumptions about how you might be responding, which could be right or wrong. Either way, it creates an opportunity for those assumptions to become expectations that your brand doesn't meet, which is where you LOSE trust points. 

Communicate as soon as you can with the information you know. You don't have to know everything. Just tell people what you DO know, and they will appreciate it. 

Communicate more vs. less

Similar to the previous point, you also have the option to communicate more vs. less. 

You may have noticed that there are two types of responses in a crisis. Those companies that seem to let you know every single possible update. And those who seem to just bide their time and hope the situation goes unnoticed. It's MUCH safer to be the former than the latter. 

When people are feeling uncertain, our minds like to jump to the worse case scenario. So, unless we give it somewhere else to go, humans can sit in a state of uncertainty for a VERY long time. You can help put your customers in a safer state of mind by telling them what you can at any given time. That is where you will win those additional trust points. 

Automated Communication Solutions Can Help

When it comes to the last 3 points, an automated communication solution can really help. You can reach more people, in their channel of choice, in a shorter amount of time, as many times as you need. 

You may think that once you're in a crisis, it's too late.

We believe it's never too late for effective communication. 

The team at SPLICE has implemented crisis solutions within as little as 72 hours. If you're already a client, it could be ever faster. Whether it's the annual CAT season, or totally unpredictable situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, our team is standing by to help