Tips to communicate to your employees and customers during a crisis
Whether it’s a natural disaster or a global pandemic, SMB leaders are on the frontlines of communication. During times of crisis, rumors spread and if we’re not careful, people have been known to panic. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to get communication right and keep employees and customers informed. Effective communication builds trust. It’s much more than a single PR statement or website alert.
Assemble a communications team
First, identify who will be part of the crisis comms. team. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, so if you have a plan in place, all the better. If not, your best bet is to consolidate decision making, starting now. For many SMBs, that team is going to be the CEO, CFO, HR and a PR or marketing lead.
Don’t share information you can’t verify
Time is of the essence, but don’t compromise the accuracy of your message. If you don’t have all the details, be transparent about what’s known and not known at the moment. Your employees, customers and stakeholders want to know that your team is monitoring the situation, referencing objective, credible sources, and translating local and national developments into an action plan for your business.
Communicate first with managers
Give your managers a heads up before you send out mass communications. That way, they’ll be informed, be on the same page, and be prepared to answer questions from their teams when those questions come—and they will come. On that note, it’s a good idea to encourage managers to have follow up team meetings after company-wide announcements or decisions are shared. Those team meetings can be helpful ways to give everyone a space to get their questions answered.
Company-wide communications should come from the same source
Crisis communications should originate from a single member of your executive team or senior leader. If possible, send your communications via videoconference or phone message, then follow up with an email that summarizes key points.
Don’t just rely on email
One communication channel is not enough. During the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent lockdown of the Boston metro area, many businesses relied too much on email. Unfortunately, not all messages got through. Technical difficulties and human error resulted in not every employee making it on the “.Everyone” email list. With advances in technology, many employers are using Emergency Employee Notification Systems to send phone and SMS alerts to employees. If using this communication method, ensure employees’ contact information is updated in your HR system.
Download Coronavirus (COVID-19) Communications Template
In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, many HR and business leaders are facing a great deal of uncertainty. To help leaders manage this unprecedented public health event, Paycor is sharing a sample communication plan template that can be customized to your organization’s unique needs based on frequently asked questions like business travel, remote work, family needs, sick leave and potential office closures.