Communicating During a Crisis

Communicating During a Crisis

It’s been multiple months since V2 joined the ranks of businesses around the globe which made the quick switch to remote work. This adjustment posed a highly unique moment for the leadership team: how were we to support our now-widespread workforce as its members endured an ever-expanding list of challenges caused by the coronavirus outbreak?

The answer laid in practicing what we preach: communicating honestly and often and prioritizing the wellbeing of our employees. Amidst disruption, making a concerted effort to maintain an atmosphere of collaboration and connectivity continues to be one of our strongest solutions for dealing with the pressing situation. From our own experience, here are best practices for managing the remainder of this crisis and understanding how to lead organizations into the future.

Communicate honestly and often

As an agency whose operations are predicated on communications, we understand the value of transparency, especially between management and fellow employees. Executing thoughtful communications when disaster strikes has the power to ease fears and guide individuals as the situation advances. While circumstantial details may be lacking at the onset, it is still the expectation of leaders to update their employees on the situation to the best of their ability, being mindful not to spread unverified information. From there, proactively addressing how your company will collectively face the challenge at hand offers a sense of control over the issue, as leaving employees in the dark will only contribute to an environment of anxiety and chaos.

To be clear, a strong leader is not someone who has all the answers all the time, but simply someone who demonstrates active problem solving and offers consistent reassurance rather than cynicism. Honesty with employees signifies that you trust and value them; to show them anything less would be a disservice and disrespectful to them, as well as your company.

Base your crisis response plan on company values

Your crisis response plan should be an extension of your company value set, which is defined in the first place to govern the daily operations of your workplace. As you navigate the situation at hand, think of how you intend to uphold these guiding principles despite having a displaced workforce. For example, at V2, we’re big advocates for a strong company culture, and we’re constantly coming up with new ways to support it remotely. From video staff meetings to digital happy hours, we use tech to keep us connected. Especially because working from home can feel isolating, having time to gather and connect boosts our spirits and reminds us that we all have a supportive network behind us.

Prioritize employee needs and emotions

Executive suites may feel a pressure to accommodate the demands of stakeholders and lawmakers during a crisis to protect revenue and mitigate liability, but the priority here should really be the wellbeing of your employees. Choosing to cater to outside parties instead of the individuals who constitute your organization will be a major mistake for business integrity and productivity, which will inevitably crash without the support of hardworking staff.

In addition to all-team meetings and communications, make time to connect with employees on a personal level. This includes sharing thoughts and concerns of your own and making yourself more available than usual to staff who may want or need to discuss their concerns with someone in seemingly more control of the situation. By affirming that you’re weathering the crisis alongside your team, you develop a sense of camaraderie and allegiance across your team.

Celebrate the victories as they come

To quantify business success during a crisis by the same metrics you would use in the best of times will inevitably yield a disappointing and inaccurate reflection of your company. Atypical circumstances require leaders to redefine how they view and measure success at least temporarily. Even just maintaining operations (e.g., steady sales or an intact client roster) instead of growing marks a victory, as it demonstrates that your team has still been able to meet expectations despite pressing challenges. And to circle back to company culture: don’t forget to celebrate victories as they come. Leaders should make an effort to remind employees their work is valued to continue encouraging positive spirits.

The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated that all businesses, regardless of industry, will have to face crisis situations at one point or another in their lifetime. This means that business leaders need to be prepared to direct their organizations when the time comes. The mark of a great organization is a company whose leadership rises to the occasion when the time comes.  Whatever the situation, honesty and authenticity will always be the answer for earning employee trust and maintaining a sense of calm amidst crisis.

Crisis Comms Expertise, an Essential Tool for US Businesses Surviving Bankruptcy, Financial Restructuring or Furloughs

Crisis Comms Expertise, an Essential Tool for US Businesses Surviving Bankruptcy, Financial Restructuring or Furloughs

Per the American Bankruptcy Institute, 722 companies in May 2020 sought bankruptcy protection, the tech sector saw the most bankruptcy filings in the first half of a year since 2009, and well-over 2,200 commercial organizations nationwide have filed for Chapter 11 this year. Last year a total of 6,800 companies filed for bankruptcies. So ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet!’

Business leaders around the US are confronting unprecedented challenges. As uncertainty looms, we’re all looking to determine what’s next and how to implement future plans.

As we all undergo trying times, determining how to explain our struggles is more vital than it has ever been. Business growth may not be feasible now, and survival may hinge on carefully managing liquidity or restructuring efforts.

Maintaining liquidity or reorganizing during the current storm and beyond requires expertise that might not be available in-house.

Navigating Bankruptcy and Financial Reorganization

Many US companies will need to adjust to stay solvent. This may be as simple as implementing a new financial plan to accommodate the current situation, including not spending on rent, lessening expenses or reducing payroll.

For others, however, a more formal statement and new business plan will be required. One that creditors and a court can deem acceptable.

Actively seeking professional counsel is a critical way to show stakeholders your leadership and proactive efforts. Set a clear course and request help. From internal sources, but also outside professionals, such as financial consultants, lawyers, and communications specialists, who can advise you on available options to decrease financial burden and attain some level of continuity.

Communicating Optimism in Crisis

Whatever level of crisis an organization and its financial and legal experts must work through, it is vital for it to consider collaborating with a public relations firm equipped to manage bankruptcy communications. This can help uphold the integrity of its reputation and brand.

Planning and executing crisis communications effectively is necessary to ensure customers, investors, employees, media, and partners stay engaged with a company.

An effective bankruptcy communications roadmap will need to build hope and optimism. To achieve this, a plan should include close collaboration with bankruptcy lawyers alongside strategically-directed key messages for business representatives and media training for employees and executives, who will need to share unfavorable news with confidence while positioning the business to recover its value and succeed.

Implementing the Right Strategy

Crisis communications require precision on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, organizations facing challenges should seek communications partners that can customize plans specifically for their needs. Many organizations have their own strengths, so teams should carefully choose who to partner with and strive to gain an honest and transparent relationship with the firms they are considering.

Once a communications roadmap is laid out (and sometimes planning must overlap with execution), it’s time to implement a tactical key message approach. This must be done in a way that helps build and sustain positive relationships with the media and stakeholders via a multitude of strategies — from internal and external communications, social media, news releases, investor relations, and more.

Experience also plays a large role in success. Veterans who have been neck-deep in crisis and emerged successfully with positive messaging can explain first-hand what they have seen work and fail. And the human element is also vital. In every instance – it’s important that crisis communications clearly maintain the value businesses place on customers and employees and the humanity leadership displays as they try to help themselves and others navigate troubled waters.

About the Author

Bob Gold founded and manages Bob Gold & Associates, one of the premiere independent integrated communications public relations agencies in the United States.  The agency specialty is being experts at the nexus where video content meets technology and distribution. In 2019 Public Relations Society (PRSA) Los Angeles named him Communications Professional of the Year.

During his more than 30 years in public relations and marketing, Bob Gold has helped launch more than a dozen companies, re-branded many others, and created successful campaigns for numerous start-ups and Fortune 500 brands.

Gold is also the Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Hemisphere Technologies Inc., a Nevada corporation, which is dedicated to investing in technology companies. Gold has extensive experience in small and large-scale transactions and works as a key member engaged in all aspects including sourcing, evaluating, structuring, monitoring, and, where applicable, harvesting investments.

When he’s not helping others, Gold can usually be found more than 65 feet underwater on a scuba diving “mancation” with his three sons.