6 steps to crisis communications for businesses


There’s no doubt that businesses of all sizes have faced some big challenges in recent months. Take a look at our tips to help you effectively communicate with audiences during a crisis.

Aerial view of colleagues brainstorming around a meeting table


When your business is confronted with a crisis, how you communicate during that time – to staff and stakeholders, as well as the general public – is a test in maintaining trust and positive public sentiment.

Interestingly, just 49% of businesses have a crisis comms plan in place. While not all crises are created equal, it’s important to have a skeleton strategy in hand that allows for agile messaging based on changing events and audience responses.

Here are some factors to consider when creating crisis communications for your business:

  1. Think internally as well as externally

When a crisis occurs it’s natural to focus first on public image and prioritise marketing certain messages to an external audience. But your staff and stakeholders also need careful consideration, so be sure to let them know how you intend to respond.

Aside from the fundamental need to keep all those impacted informed, be aware that any negative sentiment can be publicly communicated via an employee’s or stakeholder’s social media channels – and could conflict with whatever messages are due to go out officially – so make sure you take them on the journey.


  1. Determine existing sentiment

First impressions last. The tone and content of your messaging will be influenced by initial internal and external perceptions and sentiment. Social media listening is a great gauge for this; monitoring coverage and the comments and reactions that follow will be a good indicator of the general mood, and help you shape communications accordingly.


  1. Understand the role of your business

At the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, businesses that aren’t necessarily part of the healthcare sector were quick to release authoritative communication about cumulative statistics and medical advice, adding to the noise of (at times) conflicting information consumed by audiences on social media.

The best thing to do in a crisis is to err on the side of caution. Define the role you play in your customers lives and don’t be tempted to venture beyond it. If your business’ working hours or services were affected by the pandemic, then that should be the messaging released to your audience, leaving medical advice and statistical analysis to the experts.


  1. Pivot content plans if necessary

In the event of a crisis, take a look at your existing scheduled content and communications, and adjust or postpone any information that may be inappropriate for the situation. But remain committed to the value you hold within your community of customers and stakeholders and stick with it, rather than succumb to temptation to create content just to be a part of trending conversations.


  1. Structure your messaging carefully

The key qualities of effective messaging are as follows:

  • Acknowledgement of the issue and your businesses’ role and risks being faced
  • Expression of concern of the effects on staff, stakeholders and customers
  • A progress report on how your business is addressing the issues
  • An offer of immediate assistance to affected staff, customers or stakeholders (ensuring the response has the necessary resources to back it)
  • A reminder of your key communication channels should anyone want to get in touch (with a promise of prompt replies – this is crucial)
  • Ensure you have a variety of responses prepared should sentiment change – agility is everything. A good way to do this is to anticipate complaints or key concerns and have a bank of FAQs, responses and plans of action ready to be tailored to the audience should the need arise.


  1. Conduct sentiment analysis during and after a crisis

Social media analysis is key to understanding public audience perception before and after a crisis. It’s a good idea for your internal comms or HR teams to circulate a survey during and after a crisis to measure if and how employee perceptions and company sentiment changed. This opportunity for feedback makes employees feel heard and provides valuable insights to help inform future comms strategies.


Need help putting together a communications plan? Speak to us at Carnaby + Co


Image: Pexels & Pixabay.

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