Former colleague and current Examiner.com columnist, Phil Mann, recently interviewed me for his article, “The importance of workplace communications during a crisis.”
Donnelly argues that the employee audience is a crucial one that, in an ideal world, should be addressed first or at least simultaneously to the initial release of public information. He believes this is even more essential given the immediate access to information today via social media.
He continues that companies generally err when they believe they can entirely suppress employees’ social media use during a crisis, in part because of the difficulty in actually enforcing those edicts. Better, Donnelly believes, to arm employees with the best information, including how the event in question affects the employee population directly. In that context, he adds, it’s fine to discourage related Tweets or Facebook posts, but at the least those employees choosing to disregard that guideline are better armed with useful information.
As I shared with Phil during the interview, simultaneous internal and external communications during a crisis is becoming the norm because of access to “information anywhere” and social media adoption. Thus, communications are no longer easily defined as internal or external…and yet, all communications become eternal because they live on through search engines, blogs, tweets, posts, etc.
As an aside, it’s a little ironic that Phil contacted me for perspectives on internal communications in a crisis. Phil was the first person to warn me that 9/11 was happening because his wife heard the first plane’s impact. I turned on my TV a few minutes before any news outlet began to cover the live event. On that morning in New York City, we mostly focused our crisis management talents on workplace communications at Ketchum (client calls would not come until that afternoon). I’ll never forget and will always appreciate Phil’s early alert on that day.
Back to the topic — what are your thoughts? Is it possible to do simultaneous internal and external communications during a crisis? Or would you prioritize internal first (and is that possible)? Share thoughts below, please.