Communicating through a crisis: how to reach internal audiences

April 21, 2022
 Jen Farr 

If you’ve been following our series from last month’s P World Crisis Communications Bootcamp (Part 1 and Part 2), you already know that having a strategy is an important first step in any crisis situation. 

Another crucial piece is identifying and leveraging the right tools and channels to ensure the right message is delivered to the right audience, in the right way and at the right time.  

So, once you’ve held yourself accountable, determined your communications strategy and activated your crisis team or agency partner to support messaging, one of the questions you need to ask, is: Do both my external and internal audiences need to receive messaging?  

The answer is likely, yes.  

Employees are your brand ambassadors…and front line of defence. 

While investors, partners and other stakeholders must be kept up to date during crises, it’s critical to ensure your internal stakeholders are also included in all early communications and receive relevant information that addresses their unique concerns as employees.  

During flight attendants’ pre-flight safety demonstrations, passengers are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks in the event of an emergency before assisting others. The same principle can be applied to crisis communications – the organization needs to ensure that its people understand what’s going on before communicating externally.  

When employees must look to external resources or media outlets for information, rather than from their company, the messaging they find may be too impersonal or irrelevant to their concerns and create resentment and distrust. 

Employees are an organization’s biggest brand ambassadors when they are aligned with the company. On the flip side, they can become a reputational hazard if they do not feel heard or considered – especially during a crisis.  

Be sure to tailor the messaging appropriately and ensure it is delivered in a way they can easily receive it. 

Leveraging external channels to reach internal audiences 

Internal channels such as email, intranets and Slack/Microsoft Teams can be effective for many corporate settings, but every industry and company culture requires different methods of communications to effectively reach employees.  

For example, in the healthcare industry, nurses and doctors are often too busy to check emails.  Chances are, this will only be amplified in the event of a crisis. In instances like this, external channels like text messaging and even social media are often leveraged as a way to reach this internal audience for updates throughout the crisis. 

Additionally, platforms such as an internal intranet can be leveraged as a go-to information hub, where crisis information can be optimized to ensure that it reaches employees as soon as they open the platform and/or appears as soon as they begin searching for updates. Although traditionally considered an external tactic, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can also be used to reach internal audiences.  

Many companies also employ video tools to increase the personalization of the message and allow the CEO to “talk” to the staff in their own words. Videos can also be shared with staff in warehouses or other settings where email is not a priority or an option. 

Streamlining the message 

During a crisis, all audiences – both external and internal – must be considered when drafting and executing a response. And remember, the messaging and method of delivery are equally important.  Ensuring that employees are kept up to date alongside external stakeholders fosters a culture that encourages two-way communication and prioritizes employees’ feelings of being supported, heard and valued. 

Have a question? Interested in finding out more?