A New Recruiter To-Do List: Coronavirus Crisis Communications

Katrina Kibben Change Management, COVID-19, Employee Communications

You know that game, “never have I ever” that you played in college? Someone will name an experience, sexual or otherwise, and if you have done that thing, you take a gulp of your drink. It’s probably the most straightforward drinking game that exists. 

Let’s play. Drink if you have written employee communications about a pandemic.*

* You’re welcome. I know you probably needed that – whether you just needed water to stay hydrated or a slug of something more substantial.

If you’re still holding down a job this week, you have probably written something about the coronavirus crisis. You can go ahead and drink again if you’re the inbox taking the brunt of all the one-off emails, too. Anyone who is leading a people function falls right in the middle of “owning” that strategy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of emails, announcements, and updates that have to go out. 

3 Ways To Make Your Crisis Communications More Humane

That doesn’t mean you’ve written crisis communications before. I mean, when was the last pandemic that shut down our businesses and economy? Safe to say this isn’t something that’s taught in a traditional talent leadership development plan

What you have been taught that applies now is how to do good by having interactions filled with small acts of empathy, kindness, and compassion. That is your secret weapon and one of the three things I want you to address – in each message you write, and over the coming weeks as the situation evolves. 

Tl; Dw (Too Long; Didn’t Watch) Cliffnotes Version

  1. Phase 1: Shock. Recognize where people are at. Acknowledge it. Find small ways to be kind and compassionate to anyone you interact with right now. Ask about their families. Check-in.
  2. Phase 2: Stories. When you reach out, the language has to be personal. You. Me. Us. We. You can stand out by being the human voice in these crisis communications. Your messages must come from people, not a leadership committee, to be heard, and to build trust at this critical moment. 
  3. Phase 3: Recovery. Right now, we’re all waiting to see what happens. As for HR, I think this is so important – tell people what you know for sure. Stop and ask, “What would I want to know right now?” Write that down. 

I guess there are four, technically. The last one? 

4. Give yourself a little grace. “Right” is entirely unknown. Crisis communication is not easy. You’re doing the best you can.