Internal Communications in a Crisis 

Do you have a solid internal communications plan to handle the COVID-19 crisis? Employees need to know what is happening and how they will be affected. To help you create your plan here are a few things to consider: 

  • Communicate early and often  employees should not be left wondering, send regular messages and update intranet pages regularly as policies and advice change. 
  • Use the right channels and latest contact details – check that your usual channels are still effective, do they rely on staff having internet access? Do you have emergency contact details for all your staff?
  • Establish a single source of truth  nominate a spokesperson for major announcements. Ensure that your employees know where to go to find information. Brief line managers on how to effectively support their teams.
  • Show you care – acknowledge the difficulty of the situation, recognise that work may not be the prime concern in your employees’ minds. Reinforce your company values and be patient and understanding when responding to queries.
  • Continue having difficult conversations – if you need to communicate bad news or address a difficult subject with an employee avoid delay and communicate in a forum where you can see or hear each other rather than by email. Conversations will only become more difficult the longer they are deferred.
  • Have fun – find ways to stay connected and learn more about your team. Host online events where everyone can come together and chat and talk about topics other than work. You may find your team becomes more united than ever.

Keeping people informed of changes (what are we doing), connecting actions to purpose (why are we doing it), and connecting them to a community (what is my role) will help everyone to navigate this challenging time. 

FREE DOWNLOAD: For assistance in developing your own Internal Communications plan you can download our free Internal Crisis Communications plan template.   

Nervous Employees? 

During rapidly changing times such as the one we’re experiencing now with the Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, keeping employees feeling secure is a continual challenge.  It is important to reassure your staff and contractors by communicating useful information quickly and regularly in a calm, honest and succinct way.   It can be helpful to develop a communications plan (such as the COVID19 Internal Communications Plan Template that we linked above) and assigning responsibility for communications to a dedicated team, with nominated executive spokesperson(s). 

Depending on industry, size, location, organisational structure and your ways of working, each organisation will have its own unique set of circumstances and you should tailor your plan to suit your own situation.  In addition to the points we’ve summarised earlier in this article, here are further details to consider when tailoring your own Internal Communications:  

  • Identify the purpose of your organisation and how this is threatened by the crisis.    
  • Identify the actions you need to focus on, linking them to your key purpose.  
  • Identify your crisis communication team.  Nominate a respected senior member of staff as your spokesperson.  Your team may include members of communications, legal, information technology, human resources and health and safety teams.   
  • Identify the channels you will use to communicate with your staff.  These may include email, text messaging, phone, intranet pages, online collaboration tools or physical messaging.  Ensure that the channels you select are accessible by staff who may be unable to access online systems
  • Determine the frequency of your communications on each channel.  How will you keep your staff informed without overwhelming them.  
  • Consider two-way communication, let employees know how to contact you to ask questions or raise issues.    
  • Create a central location for information on your intranet or in a fact sheet that can be emailed to staff without access to the intranet.    
  • Brief your line managers, let them know what to say and how to help their team members.    
  • In the case that staff may have to be laid off communicate quickly and clearly, directing people to both internal and external support services.  
  • Reassure your staff by letting them know how they you will support them while providing prompt and consistent advice on their role and responsibilities connecting their actions to the wider purpose and aims of your organisation.   
  • For customer facing employees, give them the tools and training to confidently and consistently communicate with customers.  This could be as simple as coming up with a living set of Frequently Asked Questions that is made available in a central location and constantly updated.

Tools to help with remote working and internal communications during the Coronavirus pandemic (and beyond). 

There is a plethora of digital tools available for organisations big and small to take advantage of for their communications, particularly as teams are working from home; or in-person meetings and events are being cancelled and moved online.  Here are just a few digital communications tools that we suggest you take a look at:  

  • Zoom for online meetings, video conferencing and webinars.   
  • MS Teams for online meetings, collaboration, digital workspaces and whiteboarding, chats and more.  
  • Google Hangouts, Livestream and the rest of the GSuite  
  • Social Chorus for workforce communications including Intelligent Automation to certify message delivery, receipt and understanding  
  • Hubspot, Mailchimp, Vision 6 for email marketing 
  • Trello, Asana, MS Planner and more for project management and collaboration

The above are just a few of the tools you can consider – there are hundreds out there and a simple online search can help you find free or inexpensive tools to help you communicate with ease. 

We hope you found this article useful and encourage you to email us your Communications or Marketing questions or submit a question to our free virtual helpline for Coronavirus Comms Q&A.  

Related Webinar Recording:  Check out the recent panel discussion with article author, Rachel Patterson plus Lisa McNally, Director Communications for CSG International and Zoe Pashley, Agile HR Director for Jackson Talent Management as they discuss their global and local communications examples in the immediate days and weeks responding to Coronavirus changes.  View Zoom recording here.
Rachel Patterson

About Rachel Patterson

Award winning, internal communications specialist with over 20 years experience working with global technology companies, major government agencies and local community organisations. Rachel is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators and a previous recipient of the Gold Quill Awards.