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Using a battle rhythm for communications in a crisis

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If you’ve ever worked in an emergency response situation, or been involved in an emergency response exercise, you’ll have heard terms like ‘war room’, ‘battle rhythm’ and ‘command and control’ being used.

In a fast-moving situation where new information and situations are emerging all the time, knowing who is responsible for doing what, how decisions are made, and who’s in charge is incredibly helpful.

But even if you’re not a healthcare organisation or directly involved in the current pandemic emergency response, there’s plenty to be learned from the way organisations such as the police, NHS and local authorities plan their communications in an emergency.

When running a business, you may have a crisis management plan in place already, however, the chances of you being prepared for an event like coronavirus – especially one where the situation is changing all the time – is pretty unlikely.

This could leave you a little flustered when considering how to get on top of your company communications. In fact, with all the noise out there it might be tempting to not bother at all and instead, try ride the wave. But this is a bad idea. Instead, establish a ‘battle rhythm’.

The importance of regular updates

Your organisation could be responding in all sorts of ways. For example, it could be prioritising some work over others, furloughing the bulk of its workforce, or perhaps using this period of downtime as an opportunity to upgrade its operation. But, with all this going on, it’s easy to put ‘communicating’ to the back of the mind.  

That’s where establishing a ‘battle rhythm’ for your communications can help. If you’re directly involved in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, this might mean a daily update. It helps stop misinformation from spreading and means people know where to go for the latest, reliable information.

The Government got it right establishing a daily briefing that happens at the same time each day, but where they have gone wrong is having a rolling cast of less-than-convincing spokespeople answering journalists’ questions. Instead, having a limited number of spokespeople that viewers start to recognise and trust, who are well informed and on top of their brief, is far more effective.

Tone and Audience

Think about your audience and adapt your tone of voice. While your tone may have been sales-focused or quite lighthearted in the past, you may want to take a step back and reassess. Now, opting for a more serious, sympathetic and understanding approach would be a better strategy.

Alongside this, there’ll be three very important sets of people you’ll need to talk to, and, below, we’ve highlighted how to manage your crisis communications for each of these groups:

Employees

Your staff – and volunteers if you have them – need to know what’s going on too, so don’t just think about your external stakeholders. We are working with Ashgate Hospicecare in Chesterfield and one of the things they have implemented, which is working really well, is daily updates to all their staff explaining their latest infection control measures, fundraising initiatives and decisions around staffing. 

Employees need, and deserve, to be well-informed and not kept guessing about what your company is doing at such a critical time. This means keeping them updated on things like how your business is following Government guidelines. 

Keeping everyone informed helps provide peace of mind and also means staff are more likely to be effective external ambassadors for your organisation. Should you have any frequently asked questions from employees, creating a point of reference on the work intranet can be helpful.

Think about:

  • Posting regular information where employees can easily find it
  • Describing how and why decisions were made
  • Communicating regularly, even if it’s just to check-in
  • Providing information promptly. It’s better to receive information when you need it than when it’s too late to be useful

Customers

During these uncertain times, your customers will be trying to navigate their own worries and concerns. But remember, reassuring them that you are there and able to help – or even letting them know when you aren’t – will give them peace of mind. High-Rise is currently helping one technology firm with a media strategy around a company restructure and whole new organisational division that is a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some useful things to think about:

  • Think about what is important to the customer, for example this could be keeping them informed on how you’re functioning as a business and what this means for them
  • Concentrate your communications on how you can help them, addressing the concerns and problems they may be facing. Don’t go in for the hard sell, instead think about how you can help them and offer advice.
  • If you can provide relief, such as free shipping, a free trial or free advice, do so to provide help to those who have become loyal to your brand or business.

Shareholders

If you’ve got shareholders they, of course, will need to be kept updated. Think about the following:

  • Be transparent about everything, communicating to them what’s going right and what may be going wrong, highlighting how you’re tackling challenges and how you’re preparing for potential upcoming challenges in the coming weeks.
  • Try to put them at ease by reinforcing your long-term goals and how you’re still working on and achieving these.
  • Overall, tell them how you’re dealing with any problems and how it’s working.

While everyone is still in a situation where they don’t know the full extent of what will happen over the coming months, ensuring you have a crisis communications plan in place to keep those important to the business informed will help to remove some of the bigger stresses, allowing you to focus your attention elsewhere.

If you don’t have a media strategy at your company or know how to handle your communications during the current crisis, we will be able to help. 

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