Internal Crisis Communications Cheat Sheet

The Five Keys to Successful Workplace Crisis Communications

Whether an organization is confronting a difficult contract negotiation, planning a large-scale cutback in staff and managerial positions, or revamping its benefits programs, here are critical steps that should be taken in advance to ensure successful message management:

  • Communications pre-planning. At a time when news, rumor and falsehood spread 24/7, many organizations surprisingly don’t have crisis plans in place. A first step in rectifying this weak point is a thorough internal assessment of likely crisis hot points.
  • Contingency statement preparation. Once the internal assessment is completed, organizations should create, analyze and address a range of potential crisis scenarios with carefully crafted contingency messaging.
  • Stakeholder relations. Key audiences such as vendors, community leaders, legislators and others are often overlooked in crisis planning. They liked to be “clued in” on the latest developments and often can be relied upon to carry management’s key messages to their circles of contacts.
  • Employee trust. When a crisis happens, unaffected employees often are an organization’s most creditable sources of information—as long as they are in the loop. It is imperative that all employees (worldwide, if applicable) receive regular, useful information on what’s happening and why.
  • Sincere concern. Nothing will help defuse a crisis more quickly than a tone of sincere concern by those making difficult workplace decisions.

Crisis Communications Starter Plan

  1. Questions to consider when building a crisis communications plan should include:
  2. What should be the result of your crisis communications?
  3. What is the message that should be communicated?
  4. Who will speak to these crises?
  5. Who is being communicated to?
  6. How will your messages be communicated?
  7. How soon after a crisis will you initiate communication?
  8. Were your communication objectives met?
  9. What can you do differently?

Create a Risk-Sensitive Culture

Risk-sensitive cultures don’t just happen. Here are three keys to getting things moving in the right direction:

  1. Communicate clear expectations and guidelines. Ensure that employees know what is expected of them when it comes to safeguarding reputation. In a strong risk management culture, employees take ownership of their own risks and those of their colleagues.
  2.  Make risk management an integral part of planning and decision-making. No one likes to acknowledge that the bold new initiative they are working on could go off the rails. At a minimum, provide employees with a simple question-based framework to guide them in thinking through the risks presented by a particular decision, action or policy change and whether it should receive further scrutiny before being implemented.
  3. Model sound risk management behaviors. Train managers to serve as risk management role models by being available, approachable and supportive when potential problems surface. The focus should be on ensuring that issues are properly addressed, not on pointing fingers or covering tracks.