Communications Peer Perspectives Part 3

Change and crisis communications advice
September 10, 2020

To wrap up this series on building a strong strategy that can shift and change as a crisis evolves, U of M internal communicators share their advice with other communications professionals on how to navigate during times of uncertainty.

Manage stakeholder expectations

“Always remember to think in terms of what your audiences need to know rather than what is easy for you to say. When people are worried or scared, they don't have patience for messages they don't think apply,” says Sandra Boone, communications specialist with Global Programs and Strategy Alliance and International Student and Scholar Services.

“When an urgent situation erupts, don't sit on messages waiting for everyone to weigh in. Put the word out as accurately yet timely as possible, noting that the message may be adjusted as the situation evolves. Tell people when to expect the next message, and where to go with questions (and make sure you have somewhere for them to go),” says Carrie Meyer, director of customer support and communications, Controller's Office.

Plan ahead for opportunities and other crises

Meyer adds, “If your continuity of operations plan or emergency communications plan isn't immediately at hand on any given day, get to work on one and keep refining it. A good sign your emergency plan is workable is if you can actually use it for anything and still be successful in getting the word out.”

“It is helpful to keep people looking and planning ahead without overwhelming them. Looking forward and working toward the next step can help take your mind off a stressful situation and channel your energy productively. Reminding students, staff, and faculty to do so keeps them focused and reinforces the idea that we're not going anywhere,” says Jenna Ray, senior communications specialist for the University of Minnesota Morris.

Peers and leaders can create connections

“Help your leaders meet the deeper emotional needs that we all have to feel connected, heard, and seen despite everything else happening right now,” says Nora Hayes, communications director for the Office of Human Resources.

Another University communications professional adds that you can hone your skills by attending a related webinar to learn current best practices, while keeping an eye out for how others are communicating.

Do you or your team have effective internal communications techniques to share? Submit your responses in this quick survey and watch for additional posts.

Check out these additional resources for supporting employees during a crisis: “Support for Employees During Crisis” and “Keep Your Remote Meetings Engaging.”

Contact Christie Wells or Meagan Pierluissi for internal communications support at internalcomms@umn.edu.