Flu Fight-Back Plan: 7 Communication Techniques to Use Now
As if the global economic crisis wasn’t enough to deal with, along comes a new challenge: the Swine Flu Pandemic. Nostradamus aside, who could have predicted that the world would be simultaneously fighting threats to our wallets and our health?
But, as we know from the old cliché, every cloud has a silver lining. Good communicators and leaders alike will see this unfortunate turn of events as a call to action – and that action is to improve your company’s ability to communicate in tough times.
For communication professionals, it is an opportunity to add value by incorporating processes and techniques that enable managers and associates in your organization to communicate effectively on any topic well beyond the crisis du jour.
So, when the call is sounded: “What are we doing about the Swine Flu issue?” here are a few techniques to adopt:
1. Assess your resources. Do you have a crisis communications plan? If so, dust it off and give it the once over. Do a search and swap “swine flu” for “crisis,” “fire,” “earthquake,” or any other scenario that you might have plugged in. Does the plan hold up? If not, make the necessary changes in order to be responsive to the current threat. Don’t have a crisis plan? Now is the right time to create one. If you don’t know how, ask for help – this is something that you won’t want to “wing.” This is also the point where you’ll want to consider partnering with an outside expert like Dulye & Co. to provide training where it is needed, as well as to provide expert guidance on leveraging and improving your existing communications practices.
2. Assess your infrastructure. When any engineer designs a system, two of the most important considerations are load and responsiveness. The same is true of your communications infrastructure. Is it capable of handling the load that this new communications requirement will demand? Is it responsive to the need? Is there a feedback loop and can it handle the anticipated input? Ensuring that you have the right system for the job is important in order to avoid failure. Dulye & Co. recommends a closed-loop, 2-way communications process that allows information to flow freely –in multiple directions – through the system. Another important consideration is effectiveness. How do I know that the system is functioning as intended? What are the metrics and how are they being measured and reported? What can be done when things don’t go according to plan? A strategic communications system allows you to monitor effectiveness and pinpoint areas where action is needed. The feedback loop will tell you what people want to know, and the system will allow you to deliver that knowledge.
3. Develop your approach. One you have assessed your plan and the system to launch it on, you can develop your approach – the strategies you will use to communicate. Your strategies will no doubt include face-to-face channels, print media and electronic tools – including, perhaps, some of the new social media resources that people are relying on more and more.
4. Don’t go it alone. As you develop your approach, remember that a global problem involves a global solution. This isn’t a Communications or an HR problem – it is a business problem and should be treated accordingly. Outline roles and responsibilities of your leader and the leadership team. Don’t forget to include managers and supervisors in your plans because – as Dulye & Co. research reveals – employees regard managers and supervisors as their Number One preferred source of information in the workplace. Assess the readiness of leadership, managers and supervisors to take on this role. If they’re not ready, this is a good opportunity to get them trained and add value to their existing skill sets.
5. Get air cover. Don’t wait for the boss to come to you. Take your plan and your strategies to the boss and deliver your proposed solution. Have a one-page executive summary of the actions that you plan to take and walk the chief through the plan.
6. Execute, measure, adapt. Once you get the green light, it’s time to execute—gather feedback and learn from it. Take advantage of existing opportunities to air unfiltered feedback and assess progress. Discuss findings at leader staff meetings and dialogue about responses. For example, high concerns warrant leaders to begin targeted workplace walk-arounds to share information personally, gauge concern firsthand and relay feedback. Walk-arounds also bolster their position as leaders and as individuals who care for the well-being of employees.
7. Instill shelf life in new practices. Maintain the rhythm and the discipline of flu-fighting communication practices to ensure credibility. Crush the grapevine and establish your system as THE source for all credible information for your business, whether it’s the Swine Flu, a new contract win, a cost-containment effort, or information on the upcoming company picnic. Out of crisis comes opportunity. Doors are open for you now that will close when things return to “normal.” Take advantage of the chance to improve yourself, your business and your employee’s level of participation and engagement.