"If there's something strange
in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call?
– Ray Parker
That works for the movie, but if your organization finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the first people to let know are your own employees.
Too often, employee communication in a crisis is an afterthought. They are left finding out what's going on by reading news accounts or following someone else's tweets.
This is a badly missed opportunity because employees can be a trusted conduit for reliable information about a crisis. If employees aren't clued in, they can inadvertently become a conduit for inaccurate or confusing information through their iPhone pictures and social media chatter.
Many crisis preparation plans include excruciating detail on how and when to communicate with external audiences such as the news media, but glance over the value of timely internal communications. Few plans call for telling employees about a crisis first.
How a company deals with a crisis can enhance or tarnish its reputation. That is especially true for the company's workforce. If employees are left in the dark, their estimation of management can drop. Morale can sag as employees conclude they really aren't strategic partners in the enterprise.
Employees briefed on a crisis can do more than tell the company's story. They can help shape what the company does, offering practical advice about maintaining operations that could easily be overlooked in the chaos that dominates crisis situations.
Overloaded crisis communicators may think there isn't time to talk to employees when reporters or angry neighbors are calling every minute. But this really isn't a job that should be delegated anyway. The organization's top dog should seize the opportunity to share what is happening, explain the response and ask for constructive ideas.
There is a lot of confusion during a crisis. Don't be confused about who ya gonna call first.