Crisis Communication for Founders in the time of COVID-19
This blog post is a recap of our CEO Lindsey Walenga’s appearance on the Coping with Covid web series, hosted by Bamboo and partners. Check out a video of the full session here.
We’re all experiencing negative effects as a result of COVID-19: From layoffs to branding pivots, organizations everywhere are experiencing rapid changes. It’s easy to get swept up in reacting to each new issue and trying to keep your head above water, so it’s important to take some time to breathe, and think intentionally about your communication strategy.
Communication during a crisis is critical to navigating that crisis. Reputations can be made or broken during this time. As a founder, how you carry yourself and lead your team and customers through a crisis speaks volumes.
At Siren PR, as a strategic communication firm, we are getting lots of questions from business leaders around how to communicate effectively during this crisis. What can you do to increase the likelihood of your team and company coming through a crisis well? Read on to learn our most critical action steps.
Lead with integrity
First and foremost, be the kind of company that operates with integrity. Take care of your people. When a crisis hits, you want to be standing squarely on a foundation of trust amongst your team and with your customers. If you don’t have trust, you will crumble in a crisis.
Lead with calm confidence- which starts by taking care of yourself
Your main goal should be to project calmness, confidence, and empathy. As the leader, everyone is going to take their cue from you. If you are calm, they will be calmer too.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. This is essential. As the leader, you are also experiencing stress and trauma, compounded by being responsible for so many people. Make sure you have the personal and emotional support you need to process your own stress and grief. See a therapist, lean on your closest people, put your face in the sun, turn off the news and sleep. Only then will you be able to support your team.
Communicate early and often
When negative fallout occurs or you’ve made a decision, communicate early and often. Do not leave people guessing, unless you want the story written (perhaps incorrectly) for you. Ideally, you want to let people know about something BEFORE it happens and affects them. If you can’t do that, then immediately after.
Our specific strategy for how to communicate critical information, and how to inform people about important decisions is available below. Click to see the strategy outlined in detail.See the steps
Prioritize the people
As a founder, you want to bring your bottom line through this crisis and you want to keep your investors and customers. In order to do that you must prioritize the people who are negatively affected by the crisis, understand them, make decisions to support them, and communicate effectively with them. That is what builds trust. And trust makes people stay.
Your messaging should always prioritize the people who are affected. When, as a leader, you are both clear and you follow through with what you say, trust will continue to build even in uncertain times.
The most important elements to navigating crisis communication are calm confidence, prioritizing the people who are hurt, and communicating clearly and quickly. We are in unprecedented times. That much is certain. However, being prepared to communicate during critical or crisis situations is a skill that can be honed at any time. Even right now.
Our specific strategy for how to communicate critical information, and how to inform people about important decisions is available below. Click below to see a recap where the strategy is called out in detail.