How to Communicate in a Crisis

The speed and scale of COVID-19’s disruption has caused immense uncertainty across UK organisations, none more so than in the public sector. How organisations communicate with citizens and employees during crisis can incite clarity, build resilience and drive positive change.

Every crisis has a life cycle, and your communication will change based on the stage of the crisis and people’s emotional states. Our How to Communicate in a Crisis is a guide for public sector organisations to re-think how they communicate in 5 simple steps.

  1. Give citizens and employees what they need, at the time they need it

The fundamentals of successful communication are to listen to your stakeholders and make necessary action based on this exchange. COVID-19 has created a heightened sense of urgency on the public services people need and accelerated the speed in which it happens, and these needs are constantly changing. The public sector has a duty of care to understand their evolving needs, strategize the most effective ways to achieve them, and communicate how they will be fulfilled. In essence, public sector organisations should streamline communication to research, rectify, respond and resolve.

  1. Communicate regularly and concisely

People struggle to absorb information in times of crisis. This is particularly true for public sector services, where almost every day there is an influx of new and often confusing information. Be conscious of people’s safety and wellbeing. Keep communications with citizens and employees simple and to the point. Use varied forms of communication to ensure your message gets across. Then, repeat the process. 

  1. Be transparent (people appreciate it)

Citizens and employees require honest communications about what is happening and what you are doing about it. Being transparent reflects your compassion and acknowledges the role public services play in people’s safety. This will help to build trust in your organisation that will remain post-COVID.

  1. Celebrate your achievements to build resilience

As we enter into extended periods of lockdown, none of us know what the future holds or how long the crisis will continue. However, it is crucial to reflect upon what public sector organisations have learnt and move forward with the positives. Communicate your achievements as an organisation internally and externally to strengthen lines of communication and build a productive community.

  1. Establish your goals for the future

One day, the crisis will end and what will be left is the legacy of how your organisation, and the wider public sector, dealt with it. Use the crisis to determine what your goals are for the future through open and continuous communication with citizens, employees and other stakeholders. What is your vision for the future in digital technology? How will the changes you made during this crisis impact that? How will your organisation and its people emerge? By establishing your mantra now, you will provide clarity long after the disruption of coronavirus ends.

Why should communication during a crisis be taken seriously? The answer is with overcoming challenge and adversity comes opportunity. How organisations listen, respond and communicate with citizens and employees during COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the culture of the public sector and the organisations within it.

Communication reaps rewards when public sector organisations transform their approach.

Find out more at the NFON public sector microsite

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