How to Communicate Effectively in a Crisis
Communication is the most valuable skill in a crisis, according to the Australian Institute of Management’s 2020 Pulse Survey (www.aim.com.au/blog).
In my experience leading many crisis communications teams such as for the methane gas crisis of 2008 and Black Saturday fires of 2009, I have found that it is the quality of communication, not just communication per se, that is critically important in helping people to deal with the trauma caused by a crisis and the emotions that go with it.
Using the structure of narrative is a simple and effective way for a business or organisation to communicate in a crisis because it ties together the past, the present and the future. This style of story-telling provides context in a crisis, helps people make sense of events and can give hope for the future.
The four main elements of narrative are:
1. changed circumstance (past)
2. challenge to overcome (present)
3. goal or moral outcome (future)
4. protagonist (stakeholders)
Using the COVID-19 crisis as a case in point, the past is the changed circumstance that lead to the crisis (ie, what triggered the virus), the present is the challenges / impacts of the crisis to be overcome (eg, reduced hours for staff, changes to service delivery) and the future is the desired state/goal you aim to achieve following the crisis (eg, adjusting to the new normal through new ways of working and doing business). Protagonists are those affected by the crisis, both internal and external to the organisation (eg, staff, customers, suppliers, investors).
You now have the basic elements to effectively communicate what has happened, how it has impacted and what you are doing about it.
If you’d like to build your skills in effective communication, please visit the events section of our website to see forthcoming training programs.