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How to build crisis communication with employees?

The pandemic has taught us that crisis moments often come unexpectedly and become a real blow to business. In times of trouble, companies must be prepared for crisis communication, which requires specific skills and strategies.

What is crisis communication?

In a broad sense, it is a set of different practices, tools and actions required to resolve a crisis situation. Competently built communication helps to solve several problems at once: it prevents the escalation of an incident into a crisis, reduces the amount of financial and reputational damage, and minimizes the risks of a recurrence of a crisis situation in the future.

Many people mistakenly believe that crisis communication can only be aimed at customers and the public, but this is not the case: internal communication with employees in unstable periods is equally important. In addition, crisis communication is not limited to solving problems "in the moment", but consists of three stages, each of which includes several important steps.

Communication during the pre-crisis period

Forewarned is forearmed: even if no one thinks about difficulties yet, the company must be ready for them. Think about what kind of crisis situation might occur: for this it is worth brainstorming and making a list of potential threats. This exercise will give you two advantages at once: you will be able to understand what problems can be solved now, and you will be able to think over a plan of action in the event of a dangerous situation in a calm atmosphere.

In addition, it is important to establish and train a crisis group in advance. Typically, these teams are comprised of senior executives, PR specialists for external communication, and HR specialists for internal communication.

Communication in times of crisis

At the stage of the crisis, the most important work begins in terms of both external and internal communication. HR professionals and executives must monitor and respond to sentiment within the organization.

Crisis life cycle

Early stage
Communication is built on the principle of instruction. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, companies inform employees about precautions
Adaptation stage
Employees get used to the changes, the stress level decreases, and the former performance returns. The main goal of communication is to maintain a level of calmness in the company
Information assimilation stage
Awareness of the root causes of the crisis, its meaning and consequences, a detailed analysis of the changes that have occurred

The communication strategy during this period must be thought out to the smallest detail, and many factors will depend on its effectiveness: staff turnover (which is completely beside the mark at the time of the crisis!), the motivation and performance of employees, the level of stress in the workplace.

How can chatbots help communicate with employees during a crisis?

Simplification of communication

During the crisis, the HR department is forced to work in an intensive mode. Daily monitoring of news, updating the knowledge base, answering questions and round-the-clock support — this is the small part of the HR’s tasks in an emergency. Chatbots can optimize crisis communication — they can take on the tasks of sending news, answering frequently asked questions and collecting feedback.

Available source of information

Crisis conditions often entail a high level of stress; therefore, during this period, it is especially important for employees to have constant access to relevant information. An employee will be able to request information at any time via the bot — regardless of whether he works in the office, at home or any other place.


In an emergency, the amount of information increases dramatically. In order for it not to turn into white noise, each employee should receive only the news they need. Unlike corporate portals and chats in instant messengers, where employees have to search for the necessary information in a stream of messages, targeted mailing with the help of bots makes it possible to focus only on important news and tasks.

Post-crisis communication

The post-crisis period is the time of summing up, when the company needs to assess the effectiveness of crisis communication and work on mistakes. It is still important to continue the dialogue with employees: the company has survived the crisis, and this is the merit of the team. In the post-crisis period, it is necessary to collect feedback from employees, to thank them for their teamwork and resistance to stress.

Top 5 tips for crisis communication for executives and HR

Communicate regularly and in simple language
A high level of stress during a crisis can cause cognitive difficulties: distraction, lethargy, problems with concentration. This is a completely normal response that HR should adjust to. Make information as clear and understandable as possible: less abstraction, more specifics. Use positive constructs, focusing on what you can and not what you can’t.
Focus on facts
Many leaders, accustomed to being in control, often avoid admitting defeats and bad news because they think it will cause negative reactions. Yet it is denial of problems that undermines people’s trust. In a crisis situation, there is no need to try to embellish reality — speak nothing but the truth.
Involve employees in decision making
In a crisis, you have to act especially quickly — still, this does not mean that employees should not participate in decision-making. This can be done in the format of surveys, questionnaires, feedback forms. Such approach allows employees to understand that the company values ​​their opinion and is always ready to listen to it.
Mention the positive side

Denying the crisis can negatively affect the mood of your employees. It’s better to accept the problem, discuss it, thank them for their resilience, and continually mention what your organization is doing to cope with the difficult situation. Even small steps are important!

Show that you are vulnerable too
Share your emotions about what is happening and do not be afraid to seem weak. Conversely, researches has shown that exposing vulnerability helps build trust, increases empathy, and fosters team cohesion.

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