Talk to your troops when trouble is afoot

Andrew Leahy from Helix PR provides readers with three key steps to effective internal communications in a crisis.

When the proverbial hits the fan how do you warn your people that the media storm is coming? The secretary or switchboard operator that answers the ringing phone as they walk in the door, the manager that has a cousin in the media or the finance officer who’s about to be caught on camera out the front of the office.

Your most important stakeholders are your staff regardless of rank or title, informed and empowered staff can be among your greatest assets during this challenging time. So, while you may have well established lines of communications to your crisis response team, P&I clubs and major clients, can you instantly advise your staff?

Here are a couple of basic steps to ensure your internal comms are ship shape.

Keep an updated contact list of staff emails, phone numbers and addresses

It sounds basic but mobile phones get lost, numbers change, this information needs to be constantly updated to ensure that your messages are getting to your people.

Establish quick and efficient means of communication

While email is generally the most utilised tool for communicating with staff important messages can often get lost in the clamour of a cluttered inbox. Use multiple forms of communication to guarantee the message is heard, try modernising your approach with a group WhatsApp message that conveys the gravity of the situation and puts your staff on alert. In this digital age your staff would probably look at a WhatsApp message first thing in the morning before they troll through their emails.

Include in your communications a basic template for all staff on how to deal with a media enquiry and the name and contact details of your media handler that staff should be diverting media to.

Also, remember that nothing you share digitally is ever private, so only write what you’d be ok with a journalist seeing.

If it’s a serious crisis hold a “Town Hall” for the entire office at the start of the business day. Use a common space to explain what’s going on and how it’s being handled. Allow staff to ask questions or voice their concerns.

Re-iterate your social media policy

Make it very clear to your staff that posting on social media about company related matters during a crisis is not allowed. Take the opportunity to explain that it is important to protect the company and staff, especially the seafarers that may be involved. You can also empower your staff to report any social media posts that may hurt the company so that these can be addressed immediately.

Be open and honest

Share with them the news you plan to share with the media and other stakeholders, update them regularly on the latest developments so they’re not getting the latest news from rumours and innuendo.

By empowering your staff with the truth and the company’s plans to deal with the crisis you are not only easing anxiety about the situation and the future, you are also arming them to deal with the media in a calm and professional manner. This makes the company as a whole look like it’s on top of the situation.

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