internal communicator strategizing their crisis communications plan

Designing Strategic Crisis Communications

For internal communicators, it feels like 100 weeks of communicating COVID-19 have passed. From the multiple hour-long meetings a day dedicated to policy updates to countless communications requests piling up in your inbox, hours have felt like days, days have felt like weeks, and well, you know the rest.

Communicating COVID-19 to your organization’s employees has been testing every task master’s skill set. Managing your cascading communications and taking action for the Business Continuity Team are just some of the tasks that are being dropped on your “makeshift home office” desk.

It’s hard to imagine focusing on strategy development during a time of crisis. Still, by simplifying your distribution process, you can cut back on your team’s intense workload now, saving valuable staff resources – and build toward a better, less stressful future.

In between dishing out hard-hitting policy info, strategic communicators are taking notes on how to improve processes and streamline their messaging.

Managing Cascading Crisis Communications

Just as your inbox is deluged with emails from every company you’ve ever done business with, now every partner you’ve ever worked with is creeping out of the woodwork asking for individual team communications.

Suddenly, C-suite members who were second or third-degree connections on LinkedIn are emailing you weekly. When scheduling and coordinating with leadership, our in-house practitioner, Karine Stallings, suggests creating a weekly “What’s on Tap?” email.

Suddenly, C-suite members who were second or third-degree connections on LinkedIn are emailing you weekly. When scheduling and coordinating with leadership, our in-house practitioner, Karine Stallings, suggests creating a weekly “What’s on Tap?” email.

“You can’t assume that company leadership is communicating with one another.”

Karine Stallings

“You can’t assume that company leadership is communicating with one another,” she says. “It’s always best practice to give them that 5,000-foot view of all the crisis comms that are slated to be distributed that given week or even that given day. As a communicator, you must help guide leaders to understand the employee communication experience. You must guard and protect that experience, especially since COVID-19 has had a huge impact on their professional and personal lives. Too many emails hit them, and they disconnect.”

Whether it’s messaging for the entire company or management, it’s essential to identify the channels and distribution lists that correspond with each update. Using a content management system can cut back on your creation and send time. With Broadcast Content Manager, you can send out your time-sensitive updates to your most crucial employee communication channels with one publish. Your targeted messages are sent across your intranet, employee newsletter, and mobile app.

With Content Hub, you can eliminate the need to copy and paste a story each time you want to email a subset of employees and create multiple opportunities for them to see your cascading comms.

This approach works well in complex organizations with lots of separate lines of business, such as financial services and technology companies. Broadcast allows you to reach the employees with all-employee messages and the business-specific impacting communications without having those communications compete with one another.

Though leadership updates are imperative to organizations in a time of distress, your employees are exhausted by them.

Stop Overwhelming your Employees’ Inbox

While you’ve never been busier, your employee’s inbox has never been more flooded with emails. They’re drowning in virtual school updates, community correspondence, and a message from every brand that’s ever gotten ahold of their contact info.

I’ve received leadership emails from brands I haven’t purchased from or interacted with in years. My prime example is the “A message from our CEO” email from Groupon I got when the last thing I redeemed was an oil change in late 2018.
How can you make sure that your employee audience engages with your VP letters or hard-hitting policy updates?

You can start by creating a weekly digest for your communications. During COVID-19, every bulletin seems time-sensitive and must be sent out immediately. It’s easy for a single employee inbox to rack up 20 or more emails a week of just “high priority” one-off messaging, on top of managerial, direct, and promotional communications.

At the end of the week or beginning of the following, consolidate your most important news with a “Here’s what you missed” take. This storytelling strategy guarantees that your general employee audience sees your most important COVID communications.

If you want to grab your employees’ attention, avoid using their inbox as the only point of contact.

Or, if you want to grab your employees’ attention, avoid using their inbox as the only point of contact. With a cross-channel crisis communications strategy, you can get in front of your employees without bombarding them. Cerkl Broadcast relays your information to your employees in three separate locations and once they see it, it doesn’t have to pop up again. 

By creating in-app notifications in both your employee intranet and mobile employee engagement iOS or Android app, you ensure that your content is at the forefront of the conversation. 

If for some reason they miss their targeted one-off emails, intranet, and mobile app, then your employees will see your pinned content via their personalized employee newsletter that’s delivered at their preferred time and frequency. With this strategic approach, your team lessens one-off email sends and saves dedicated emails for the most important, time-sensitive crisis updates. 

You can always perform an internal communications channel audit to get a better understanding of your most valuable crisis comms delivery source.

One thing that all internal communicators know for sure is that COVID-19 has unearthed processes and systems that can be improved. Whether it’s as small as creating a cascading comms request form or as large as simplifying your content delivery, managing your organization’s employee communications will never be the same.

I thrive off of discussing internal communicators' ideas and strategies, coffee mug in hand.