Why internal comms is the key to navigating crises

Loose lips might sink ships, but mixed messaging can make corporate kingdoms crumble. Here’s why your companywide messaging must harmonize during times of upheaval.

Communicators know how vital messaging strategies are in terms of business growth. And, sometimes, survival.

Having a brand identity that the general consumer market trusts and enjoys interacting with is essential. That starts with internal cohesion and clarity.

A company’s external communication or corporate communications strategy is essential for success–especially during times of crisis. However, having a solid internal communications strategy is just as important. Both forms of communications deliver crucial messages to their intended target audiences. While the audiences are different, both forms of communication need similar messages with the same end goal.

If the internal communications and the corporate communications unify, both the employees and the consumer base are on the same page. Mixed messages result in lousy customer service. For a brand to have an organized, consistent brand culture, IC and CC must align. This is even more important during times of upheaval and uncertainty.

Here’s why:

Employees dictate your success or failure.

Internal communications must be more than top-down messaging.

Successful IC is a two-way communication channel, not just messages coming from the top to the rest of the employees. The audience for internal communications is not passive; they should have an active, powerful role in the company. Because of their outsize influence, employees’ insights into day-to-day operations and their solutions for problems should be considered, prioritized and amplified. Especially when PR problems arise.

Using internal communications to give people within organizations a voice helps create a positive work culture — and possibly tamp down a crisis, too.

Internal comms affects customer experience.

Internal messaging is more than brand policies and guidelines. Customers treated with respect and who get the services and information they need promptly are more likely to return. The same goes for employees.

By ensuring that employees are trained, valued and knowledgeable about what is going on within a company, customers feel protected. Customer satisfaction and trust are paramount in times of crisis. This all starts with building trust, loyalty and meaningful relationships in-house.

Last-minute scrambling will only make PR and morale problems worse. 

Crisis messaging is easier to disseminate when there is a solid internal communications platform in place. If you wait until disaster strikes to formulate a plan, there’s a good chance your crisis will fester due to mixed or misleading messaging.

Nothing is perfect; emergencies and accidents will happen. But if employees are informed and knowledgeable before, during and after a crisis, it is easier for them to remain calm when bad news arrives.

Internal communications are crucial during times of crisis

When leadership changes are being implemented or emergency protocols are put in place, everyone within an organization must know what is going on—being transparent and honest with what happened during a crisis and why can make the people affected calmer,  especially if jobs or salaries are at risk.

The way questions are answered and how announcements are delivered during times of crisis is essential. Having a strong workplace culture and a solid internal communications strategy will help deliver bad news in a palatable manner. Respect and trust are crucial parts of internal communications, and being open and honest during times of hardship will solidify these pillars within an organization.

If done poorly, employees can quickly turn against an organization, leading to potential lawsuits, labor disputes, and unwanted media attention. By addressing issues as they come, the possibility of them getting worse is lessened. While some conversations are difficult to have, maintaining integrity as a crucial part of workplace culture will help employees stay loyal during times of hardship. The more they are ignored, talked down to, and left in the dark, the less desirable employment within the organization becomes.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of America’s leading PR agencies.

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