Common challenges of crisis communications—and how to overcome them

crisis communications
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David Quilty
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Crisis communication is managing communication during a crisis or emergency and is an important aspect of risk management for any organization, designed to protect the company’s reputation and minimize negative impacts. Most crises are, by definition and their very nature, unknown. A crisis communications team must be ready to face common challenges that most companies encounter during a crisis, no matter how big or how small they may be. 

Today we look at the challenges of crisis communications, ways to optimize your crisis management efforts, and what you need to know to be ready for any potential crisis that may come your way. 

Challenges of crisis communications

Crisis communication, which occurs both during and after a crisis, can be a daunting challenge for any organization. It’s critical to get comms right when responding in a crisis, especially in a life-or-death situation. Crisis communication experts say that some of the most common challenges that companies face include the following: 

Limited available information

In the early stages of a crisis, when everyone needs clarification as to what could/is going on, there may be limited information available about what has happened, what is happening, or what can be done about it. This can make it difficult to communicate accurately and effectively.

Quality of information

Miscommunication can occur when there is confusion about what is happening or when different people or departments communicate different messages. Inaccurate or misleading information can confuse and hamper the ability to respond effectively to the crisis.

Disruptions to communication channels

Crisis situations can often disrupt normal communication channels, such as phone lines, text messaging, or the internet, making it difficult to communicate with employees, stakeholders, or the public. The Covid pandemic, especially, has exposed gaps in many emergency preparedness plans regarding communication.

Getting the right information to the right employees

Overlooking staff mental health 

A crisis is typically a stressful moment for your workforce, with stress levels increasing based on factors that affect them personally and professionally for the duration. A crisis can often be a highly emotional situation, and it can be difficult to communicate effectively when emotions are running high.

Reputation management 

A crisis can damage a company’s reputation, and it is important to manage crisis communication in a way that protects it and minimizes any negative impact. A crisis communication team should have the tools to protect the organization.

Legal implications

Crisis communications must be carefully planned to avoid legal issues, such as defamation or disclosing confidential information.

Effective crisis communication

Successful crisis management requires appropriate actions and communication to happen at the right time, and because communication components are complex and difficult at multiple levels, this can be difficult to do. It can be a delicate balance between assurances, optimism, honesty, and courage. Advanced planning and having the right tools in place are integral to the effectiveness of internal communications. 

Ingredients for successful crisis communication management

To manage the situation, minimize negative impacts, and protect the company’s reputation, here are some tips for effective crisis communications and putting together your crisis management plan:

Establish a clear chain of command

It is important to have a clear chain of command in place so there is clarity about who is responsible for communicating with different stakeholders. This is when having a crisis communication team really pays off, as the team already knows exactly what they need to do in during crises. 

Gather accurate information

When a crisis occurs, there may be limited information available, but it is important to gather as much accurate information as possible before communicating with stakeholders. Information needs to be verified, clearly explained, and updated as new facts arise. And most importantly, it’s ok to admit it if you don’t have all the information. It’s better to admit that than to share false or misleading information with your staff and colleagues. 

Communicate quickly

When a crisis hits, and you are ready to communicate your information, timely communication is crucial. It is important to communicate as quickly as possible to keep stakeholders informed and to manage the situation effectively. In crisis situations, it pays to have an intelligent communication platform that utilizes message templates created for audience types, along with built-in orchestration rules, that can deliver personalized experiences across every channel, reaching every employee, no matter where they are.

Hyper-personalized comms for every employee
“We can send certain communications just to pilots, or in-flight tech ops, or airports, and also target by city or region—slice and dice the content so it’s appropriate for the team member.”

Use multiple channels

Tying into the above message, a crisis management team must use multiple channels to communicate with all stakeholders, including the corporate intranet, company app, social media, email, and the company website, to ensure the message is widely disseminated. If your organization utilizes PR firms, this would be a good time to engage with them.

Be empathetic

A crisis can be stressful, and it is important to communicate in a way that is empathetic and compassionate. It can be a challenge, for sure, but any response from communication professionals must be measured, reassuring, and sensitive. 

Monitor and adjust

Continuously monitor the situation and adjust your communication strategy as needed. A professional crisis communication team understands how critical it is to include additional information in their communications when and if it becomes available. There is no “set it and forget it” in crisis communication and management. 

Conclusion

Effective crisis communication is crucial for managing a crisis effectively and minimizing any negative impacts. It requires careful planning, clear communication, and adjusting and responding as the situation evolves. 

When the next crisis or unknown event happens, you and your crisis management team will be better prepared to implement your crisis communications plan. 

The Secret to Effective Crisis Communications

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