In a Crisis, Don’t Forget Employees

If you’re like most businesses, in a crisis, your first reaction is to reach out to members of the media and your customers. Fair enough. But does your business have an internal communications strategy incorporated into your crisis communications plan?

Evan Bloom, of the Crisis Communications Consultancy in Johnannesburg, South Africa warns of the danger of what he calls, “internal communications tunnel vision.”

Internal communication tunnel vision is arguably one of the most dangerous mindsets a company can develop. Most companies forget about communicating effectively with internal audiences. The reality, however, is that a company’s employees, contractors, part-time staff and service providers will require communication about an incident even before it reaches the press.

At Sprint Nextel, when our on-call crisis communications lead is alerted to a major network outage or other issue that could draw media attention or customer complaints, the lead immediately notifies our internal communications team. This team, in turn, has one person on call who can alert the appropriate employee group to what the nature of the event is and our response to it.

When we work fast enough, we can ensure that our employees hear what’s happened from the company first, rather than from media, who may not have the full story included in their initial reports. Since customers contact the company as soon as they see initial media reports, getting accurate information to the customer-facing employees is critical.

After all, with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media, your employees are essentially functioning as spokespeople for your company. Arming your workforce with accurate information should be your first reaction to a crisis, not an afterthought.


One response to “In a Crisis, Don’t Forget Employees

  1. Hear, hear! Employee Comms professionals everywhere will agree with you, that letting staff know what’s up ahead of time improves employee morale and engagement and can even turn them into advocates for the company.

    What’s more, this translates into dollars for the company as well. Watson Wyatt recently did a study on the business value of employee communications and found that ‘effective employee communication is a leading indicator of financial performance.’

    Companies with the most effective employee communication programs provided a 91 percent total return to shareholders (TRS) from 2002 to 2006, compared with 62 percent for firms that communicated least effectively.

    Note: this subject is very close to my heart because our company provides tools and solutions that help companies reach employees fast for this type of thing…

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