Through good times and bad: Why it’s essential to build trust in a time of a crisis

By Editor April 29, 2020

In estimates released by the International Labor Organization, lockdown measures prompted by COVID-19 have affected over 2.7 billion workers worldwide. Needless to say, given the current and future impact of this global pandemic, it’s more important than ever for organisations to adapt and retain trust from their clients, stakeholders and networks. With closures, cancellations and rapid alteration in services and products, many startups are wondering how to manage crisis communications effectively in order to show stability, strength and understanding. This is vital right now; supporting the business message in times of bad as well as good.

In an interview over email Dresden Leitner, a senior account manager at Publicize, spoke with Startup Beat about where to start with crisis communication and what makes for an effective crisis management strategy. As a guest on The Loudspeaker podcast, Leitner, who has worked in PR for over a decade, shared her expertise on how she has helped her clients weather crises in the past. Below she revisits that advice and shares more:

How is the COVID-19 crisis different from previous crises you’ve worked with?

The main difference here is pure scale. I think most of us in our careers have never dealt with a crisis on such a global level. Normally a crisis would be confined to a certain industry, individual, area or organisation, but here we’re having to consider that almost everyone around the globe has been affected in some way, big or small, by COVID. 

What are some crisis communication essentials that every business should be considering?

An easy way to define this is using the below : 

WHAT? What message will you be communicating in times of crisis? What do your clients / stakeholders need to know?

WHEN? Does your organisation act fast and take a stance, or hold back with a long term strategic plan? When will the message be most likely to reach the people that we need it to?

WHERE? Where do we need to be for maximum visibility for stakeholders and customers? 

WHO? Organisations should identify a spokesperson responsible for communicating. 

HOW?  How will this strategy roll out? Confirm the right platforms / combination of communications methods to use for our brand.

And most importantly – WHY? To position the businesses in the right place today to thrive tomorrow.

What are some common mistakes that businesses make in times of crisis?

Not seeing opportunities presented by crisis. Crisis as a word, naturally has negative connotations and is often seen as a bad thing; but it can present a lot of opportunities for business when handled correctly. I like this definition of crisis – ‘A stage in which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; a turning point.’ That’s exactly how we should see it.

Many organisations are too slow off the mark, or too unsure of how to react, so they either look ignorant in a wider conversation, or miss out taking a stance and being noticed and becoming a ‘go-to.’

What are the most effective platforms to share crisis communications?

I get asked this question a lot, and a key thing to consider here is where your stakeholders or clients will be going to receive information. Are your clients looking for advice directly via social media platforms, newsletters, on your blog, on external media sites? Where would they be looking for advice? And important to play to your strengths here too. 

There are only speculations about when this particular crisis may over, and there’s no telling of the after effects. How should crisis communication change over an extended period of time? 

Monitoring a situation is key with Crisis Communications. We need to constantly be aware of how a discussion is changing and ensure that we are in line with that. For example, with the current COVID crisis, strategising for 6 months down the line would probably be pointless, as the conversation is changing week by week.

With more direct crises, this is even more important. For example, if there is a negative conversation about your business circulating across social media channels, we should be checking this daily, if not more often, to ensure your strategy is considered. 

Do you have any examples of any crisis communications strategy that are particularly effective? Or on the other hand, effectively bad?

Especially with COVID, we see some businesses thriving because they’ve strategised quickly and been able to reap the rewards e.g. offering special COVID related products like Future Marketing Insights with their COVID Tracker, Mobile Growth Association launching a 2020 fully virtual programme instead of regular conferences, and plenty more.

If I’m a business and I’m just learning about crisis communication, where would you recommend I start?

Research. If there is a comparable situation then see how people have reacted before you and look for guidance that way. Also, it’s important to remember that Crisis communications are often sensitive. This means a lot of the time, speaking to a professional or doing some market research will enable you to make much better business decisions when it comes to crisis management.

Click here to learn more about Crisis Management.

Disclosure: This story is brought to you through an ESPACIO portfolio company.