Communicating through a crisis, just be yourself
Learning to live, work and care for my family through a global panic is not something I thought I would ever experience. Although we’re all working hard to decipher how we as a community can manage through this as a collective, things are happening at such a rapid pace that it’s easy to get lost in the constant stream of information and be overwhelmed.
Working in communications I feel like I haven’t spoken, written, read or listened to anything but COVID-19 in over two weeks. Our work has been dominated by creating communications to measure, inform and advise. It’s an absolute minefield, with two of our clients providing essential services but getting very little clarity. Knowing what the position is and what to tell people is challenging, stressful and like hitting a moving target.
It’s during times of crisis that you really appreciate a clear and consistent approach to communicating across all stakeholder groups, both as an organisation and as one of the stakeholders.
The last few weeks have been extremely uncertain in Australia with the nation wondering if and when we may go into lockdown. And, the parents among us have agonised over whether to send our children to school or keep them home especially if you’re self-isolating, as I am.
Throughout all of this and, in fact, through two other crisis events this year, the school principal at my son’s school has issued faultless communications to the parents and the student body, as well as his internal team.
He has been informative, entertaining, empathic and encouraging. He has reassured us about the safety of our children and tried new ways to keep us engaged with his messages, including launching the school ‘radio’ channel – yes, he’s the host of the (currently) only show!
Because the school has established a consistent approach to communication across all stakeholder groups, they have been able to communicate important information flawlessly.
During such a difficult time, navigating completely unchartered territory, as a parent I have felt confident that my son is in safe hands and that his wellbeing is paramount to the school. This is not just because the messages I have been receiving have been delivered with empathy and compassion but, because they have been consistent with what we’re used to.
How you act and communicate in times of crisis and when things are running smoothly are equally important. In fact, I would suggest that how you have set up your communications in times of normality are vital to how your message is received during a crisis. Having a focus on consistent internal and external information and story sharing at all times is how you establish trust, support and buy in from all your stakeholder groups. And how you ensure, in uncertain times, that your message gets through to those who need it.