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Inspiring Minds: ten tips for effective crisis management

By Anna Vaughan, RBS

“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”  

So said Lenin, as quoted by Andrew Wilson on last week’s Inspiring Minds session on Crisis Management.  For all of us working through the emergency that is Covid-19, these words certainly have huge resonance. Andrew also said he loves a crisis, as this is when Communications and Marketing teams really get to make a difference to the businesses and clients they support.  

So what has Covid taught us about being ready for when crisis hits, and how do we get ourselves ready for the next phases of communicating through a pandemic?  This is what Andrew, Juliet and Derek discussed last week.  And of course, all three had consistent themes, whether you’re independently advising your clients, or delivering communications for your organisation, there are some basics that will help you thrive when disaster strikes.

1) Have a plan

Know your audience, and build relationships with people who could be negative in advance. Know your channels– what to use and when.  Build up your key messages so you’re ready to go.

2) Who’s doing what?

Be efficient, agile and quick. Have short lines of comms to the board and be clear on processes, roles and responsibilities. 

3) Best person for the job

Identify your spokespeople, often different people are best for different messages.  Keep your CEO for the really big stuff.

4)  Walk the talk

Ensure your marketing and communications teams are locked up – you can’t say one thing to customers while they see something else in the media and make sure colleagues know and can share your key messages.

5) Don’t forget who you are

Use the brand tone of voice and personality and be authentic in everything you do.

6) Shhh – just listen

Use social media listening tools to track the conversation and respond.  Be timely and authentic, but don’t let perfect get in the way of the possible – be right, but be speedy.  And say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” – don’t leave an awkward silence while you find the answer.

7) Be flexible

Be ready to change plans, quickly, as the situation unfolds, e.g. are last week’s hot channels still where it’s at this week?

8) Does everyone get this?  

If you’re asking customers / stakeholders /colleagues to change behaviour, they need to know how to do this.  Set up webinars / tutorials and communicate through new channels to support and educate.

9) What do you think?

Have a point of view prepared on the big issues and be prepared to challenge!

10) And of course, don’t forget about your own teams

Look after them, keep in touch, set up quizzes and drinks to maintain morale.  Be empathetic all the time, and inspiring when you need to be.


Anna Vaughan is Advertising Lead at RBS. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn