10 Tips for Faster, More Effective Internal Crisis Communications When Time Is of the Essence

  • Start with candor as a core value.

Instilling candor as a core value starts when the CEO and executive management seek constructive feedback. It is imperative that management take such feedback seriously and act on it when it makes sense for the organization.

  • Set up internal channels in advance.

You should have an external dark website at the ready to use in case of a crisis. Have a similar intranet dark site—complete with discussion boards, blogs, Q&A’s, security procedures, etc.—that can go live quickly if needed.

  •  Alert employees first, anticipate their questions.

Even a few minutes of advance notice makes a big difference on the trust scale. To the extent possible, offer facts rather than general reassurances. Humans are hardwired to assume the worst and will fill in the blanks in the absence of meaningful facts. Don’t sugarcoat the problem.

  • Be prepared for internal information to go viral.

Any messages communicated to employees almost certainly will be shared outside the company, especially in a crisis. This is one reason that message consistency with internal and external audiences is critical.

  •  Use every communications channel available.

Remind employees of the best places to get the most up-to-date information from management. Use high-tech and low-tech tools, keeping in mind that there are employee groups that lack immediate access to email or Intranets.

  •  Make social media your ally.

Know in advance what external social media channels employees use. A wide variety of social monitoring tools are available, including free and paid services

  •  Be brief and consistent.

Internal news should be as factual and complete as anything distributed externally. Give all employees the same information. Lean on leaders to share and reinforce messages. Especially in a crisis, the CEO simply can’t do it all.

  • Display empathy.

Be sensitive to employee emotions when coworkers are injured or threatened. Establish a telephone hot line and update the messages frequently. If there are multiple injuries or deaths, consider contracting with counselors to provide stress debriefing for employees.

  •  Train actively.

Crisis Plan training includes conducting regularly scheduled tabletop exercises for the Crisis Management team using the most likely crisis scenarios. Tabletop exercises typically take 2-4 hours and should be conducted at least annually.

  •  Learn from the crisis.

Communicators can conduct short surveys to determine whether employees felt that communications were multi-directional, candid, frequent enough and effective. Once the debriefing report is complete, senior managers should implement changes based on the learnings from the exercise.

A business crisis can cause myriad disruptions for customers and partners before PR even has had a chance to assess the situation. As Deb Hileman, president-CEO of the Institute for Crisis Management, pointed out, if you want to minimize damage from a crisis, your first have to quickly communicate the scope of the problem to employees. Tips to do so are below.

Source: Deb Hileman, president-CEO of the Institute for Crisis Management. The above is an excerpt from PR News’ Book of Crisis Management Strategies & Tactics. To order a copy, please go to prnewsonline/press/

This article originally appeared in the August 3, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.