Creating Your Crisis Communication Strategy

crisis communication strategyFrom General Workplace Crisis To Strikes: Creating a Communication Model that Works

Crisis is a part of growth, and could even be said to drive the world of commerce and business, as a crisis most often represents opportunity. Effective communication is essential to keep crisis manageable and prevent the escalation of crisis into conflict. Conflict, on the other hand, is bad for business, can be damaging to employees and can contribute to what human resources professionals refer to as a “toxic” working environment.

When teams work through a crisis and negotiate meaning and progress together in the workplace, they can accomplish goals, and promote the type of creative thinking and action that lead to innovation, prevent workplace injury, and create greater productivity.

Working with crisis models and communication protocols ahead of time, or on a regular basis, is business and workplace best practice.

First: What Does Successful Negotiation in the Workplace Mean To You?

Learning successful negotiation in the workplace means beginning to communicate in ways that are effective in achieving shared corporate goals. We negotiate within our companies every day — when we speak in meetings, when we write or respond to memos, when we “talk shop” on our breaks, and when we write or distribute written materials in the workplace.

Successful negotiation shows itself in action that demonstrates immediate corrective action that creates positive change. Establish what a properly managed crisis looks like for your company. This measure of success can take many forms – the number of team members involved, the length of time it takes to resolve the crisis… even the finanical impact of the crisis.

Next, Identify the Key Players in Your Workplace Crisis Resolution Plan

Successful crisis resolution protocols require sincere acknowledgment of the perspectives and unique voices of everyone affected by the workplace crisis. When sending out newsletters, briefs, tweets, e-mails, letters or press releases, consider as many perspectives as possible:

  • Company executives – various offices;
  • Employees – full-time, part-time, occasional, on-call;
  • Families of employees;
  • Members of the community;
  • Your business competition;
  • The Media;
    and finally
  • Union leaders – various offices, locals and locations.

Please note: Within a company with no union employees, similar crisis, negotiation and conflicts occur over work conditions, expectations and misunderstandings of communications. All of the strategies discussed here are effective for workplaces that are either unionized and union-free.

Remember: The Medium is The Message

“The medium is the message,” declared media guru Marshall McLuhan in 1977. His cryptic message is still a topic of animated discussion, but the truth is, every successful company and corporation must have a strong “mixed medium” communication system — a system of human intelligence and human resources, combined with a video, online and hard copy communications.

Demonstrating in a crisis that the company is prepared to use a variety of mediums to connect with key players can be a powerful way to de-escalate a crisis situation.

Create Your Plan: Stages of Crisis Escalation

There are a variety of “stage”-focused models of crisis development that illustrate levels of escalation and can help you guide effective response at each crisis stage. There are five stage models, seven stage models and a variety of other models recommended by academics and crisis prevention experts that are useful models for organizations to use to guide crisis intervention and communication protocols.

Knowing that there are various models to illustrate stages of crisis intervention can be an important factor in successful resolution of any type of workplace conflict. Learning new models allows you to craft a custom strategy that works for your workplace and your unique culture. Reviewing these differing approaches encourages innovative and creative approaches to crisis prevention.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Strike in Progress Strategies

When a strike is possible, a signal is sent by all parties involved that negotiations have “failed” and “communication is no longer effective.” Moving quickly past that very real situation is paramount to workplace success. All commercial enterprises, regardless of industry and size, thrive on effective ongoing communications.

Re-establishing communication as quickly as possible is essential. A strike in progress affects all key players, families and stakeholders, as well as the broader community.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Agent Provocateurs and Saboteurs

Agent provocateurs and saboteurs are not storybook characters — they are titles for people involved in a workplace for the purpose of damaging the company. Whether they are people in an employee, executive or union role, they have can a destructive impact on negotiations,  communication systems, and overall company success. A well-trained human resources team reduces the chances that these type of people are hired: They identify employees that are present for destructive purposes, and remove them strategically and immediately.

This kind of crisis can be avoided with attention to hiring practices. Communicating with the remaining members of a team when such an employee is removed is vital.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Managing the Media

Managing the media should be an ongoing shared corporate goal and protocols for media communications should be in place before a workplace crisis degrades into conflict. This is true during union organizing, particularly when the union undertakes a “corporate campaign,” working to damage the company’s reputation or business. Crisis prevention should be a primary communications goal, and keeping in regular contact with local media is paramount. Regular press releases are essential. This regular contact facilitates communication during any type of workplace crisis, negotiation or conflict.

Finally, Long-Term Planning

Managing crisis in the workplace often involves many people, players in many roles and stakeholders. It also involves families, friends, and neighbors. Creative approaches to establishing your unique “stage”-focused model as well as ongoing development of innovative strategies are keys to long-term crisis prevention and successful intervention in the workplace.

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