This morning, I came across a Tweet from PR Daily that asked the question, “In a crisis, what is external is internal and what is internal is external?”
At first the answer to this question might seem easy, internal would be to employees and stakeholders of the organization and external would be to the consumers and/or potential consumers and the media.
No, but I wish it were. If crisis communications were that simple, anyone would be able to do it and do it well. In the past, I have blogged about crisis communications and posted a list on the best blogs on crisis communications. This is helpful information for some background on crisis communications.
There are some commonalities in the communication needed for both internal and external audiences such as making sure the key messaging is the same, acting quickly and being honest. And there are differences as well.
When communicating internally it is important to know the best way to reach your employees and stakeholders. Simply putting out an email might not be the most effective way to communicate with all employees. Typically a combination of items would be best. Using an email or a company intranet, holding an all-employee meeting and having one-on-one conversations with those that might be impacted the most is effective. The final thing on internal communications is having conversations with anyone that might be talking with the external audiences so that the message that is being communicated is consistent. Those that might answer the phone or work directly with the customer should have the training and key messaging to know exactly what to say.
When communicating externally, with (hopefully) a good crisis communications plan already in place, the most important item is to make sure you have the correct information and it is shared quickly. How to reach the external audiences such as your customers is probably going to be different then how you will reach the media, so having a plan in place for how you will reach all will be important. Simply putting out a message on Facebook and/or Twitter is not going to be an effective way to reach all audiences (although it is interesting how many organizations do this). It can be one way but there should be others as well such as reaching out one-on-one to select media or hosting a news conference or sending an external email from the appropriate stakeholder.
Of course, we never want a crisis to occur but if it does it is best to have a plan in place and know how to communicate effectively with both internal and external audiences.