Crisis Communications: Start With Your Internal Audiences

Communication with your internal audience – your employees – is just as important as your external audiences during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Terrie Ard

Chief Operating Officer and President

In the wake of COVID-19, companies of all sizes are working overtime to maintain their positioning with target audiences while also being conscious of the ever-changing social constructs that are quickly becoming norms. This delicate balance of creating distance, while being fully connected, is forcing brands to rethink how they do business every day. And while many companies have immediately ramped up communication with external audiences, it is important not to ignore the audience that is already built in – your employees.

It’s simple: during times of crisis, a strategy to relay information to your employees is a necessity for a business to maintain a work environment that will be able to weather the storm. By doing this, you build upon your corporate culture.

At Moore, we live by the mantra, “If you build it, they will come,” and we take pride in developing and nurturing a positive corporate culture that boasts a high retention rate, promotes collaboration, inspires creativity and leads to greater business productivity and profitability. And we work hard each day to ensure our team is informed, they hear information from leadership first and clearly understand the impacts to our business and as individuals.

Here are some steps Moore has taken to enhance our own internal communication – which has been key during this time when we are creating physical distance. I believe this approach will help us stay optimistic and return to our offices as a stronger and more connected team.

Step 1: Our internal audience comes first.

When a crisis arises or a company is met with big news or decisions, a business’ first instinct may be to first communicate to external audiences – but, in truth, it’s your internal audience that is the most critical.

  • What is your approach, plan and timing to combat the crisis/deliver the news?
  • What is your approach, plan and timing to combat the crisis/deliver the news?
  • How often are you communicating with your employees? What tools are you using to reach them?

As a business, now, more than ever, communicating your short-term and long-term plans, whether they have consequences related to your employees or not, is important in setting the tone for what’s to come. It also reminds them that despite all that is going on, they are your priority.

Step 2: We maintain a healthy work environment.

The COVID-19 crisis is as much about mental health as it is about physical well-being because it impacts your employees’ professional lives and their personal lives. They are now learning how to stay engaged while remote working, adapt to social distancing and for those employees with children, facilitate distance learning – all while juggling the anxieties of navigating the health and economic implications of a global pandemic.

What do you do? Listen to your employees. Understand their individual challenges. Help them find solutions. And be flexible when solutions require creative problem solving.

Moore has been recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) as a psychologically healthy workplace and we know firsthand the effects of strong mental health support for overall employee health and wellness (while also enhancing performance and productivity).

When it comes to developing a healthy workplace, it is important to note that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. The APA explains that success is based, in part, on addressing the challenges unique to your particular organization and tailoring programs and policies to meet your needs.

COVID-19 has impacted nearly every Moore client in some way. Our team has risen to the challenge of leading crisis communications strategies in addition to the momentum of existing client work. Recognizing the magnitude of our team's current roles, mental health is in the forefront of what we, as a business, are prioritizing right now. For this reason, we have decided to provide all employees additional paid time off in the form of mental health days, effective immediately. This will allow our team to decompress, help alleviate some of the pressure and provide mental downtime needed to come back reinvigorated.

Step 3: Our corporate culture has evolved.

While we do not know what the future will hold, there is one thing I know for certain – every day brings new challenges and corporate culture must adapt and change to meet the demands of today. Now is the time to evaluate your corporate culture. Awareness, listening and open communication will help you identify opportunities for enhancement based on where you are today - and provide stretch goals for how you can reemerge stronger.

The following provides a few examples of how Moore is evolving its corporate culture:

Develop a stronger sense of community.

Over the past week, employees at Moore have shared how they are using this time to connect with team members they don’t normally engage with through one-on-one phone calls, virtual happy hours and sharing best practices with those in similar circumstances (like how to be a full-time employee and a part-time teacher to their children).

By developing that sense of connection to one another, they have been able to create a sense of balance and normalcy in an otherwise difficult and unprecedented time.

Remember, your employees are a family. Treat them as such – and just as you would walk the hall to someone’s office and ask a question, pick up the phone or better yet, call them via video.

Tap into employees’ skills and talents.

Challenging times provide opportunities for creative problem solving – and it’s an important lesson to never underestimate the hidden talents and skills sets of your employees. This crisis has allowed me to uncover new skills and talents of our team. I’ve seen individuals, with all different roles and

responsibilities, rise to the challenge by bringing forward new, innovative and creative ways to approach client’s needs today and those months down the road.

In turn, this provides team members the opportunity to actively engage in a new kind of work and feel a sense of pride that they are doing their part to help address the crisis head on.

With your normal, everyday workplace environment in the rearview mirror, at least for the time being, I encourage you to embrace your new “normal”, whatever that may look like – but to, most importantly, remember that your employees are at the core of what you do. Evaluating your internal communication strategy and using it as an opportunity to enhance corporate culture will determine how strongly your company will emerge from this crisis.

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