Hello, I’m Now a Crisis Communicator

January 11, 2021

Almost one year into the pandemic of a century, most of us have become crisis communicators. We have not just drafted communications materials from home, but we have collectively changed the way we communicate with one another and with our stakeholders.

Whether you have been formally trained in crisis communications—a shoutout to those who joined in the Marketing & Communications Training workshop on this topic—you have likely been doing the work, due to the sheer fact that we are living through several crises and responding in real time.

As we enter 2021 and welcome students back to campus—virtually or in person—and await COVID-19 vaccinations, let's take stock of all we’ve accomplished.

  1. Creativity: Think back to how you planned out your communications strategy this time last year. There was likely much less reliance on technology or digital communication. Maybe you’ve found ways to reach your audiences differently, with practices and discoveries that you want to continue even as the crisis subsides.
  2. Partnerships: Communicators, subject matter experts, and University leaders had avenues to connect before the pandemic, but these last few months have undoubtedly opened up far more opportunities. We are looking to one another for expertise in areas like mental health support, public health advice, and diversity, equity and inclusion guidance. We know that we can share more of the University’s leadership in these areas by reaching out. Think about those you have made connections with during the last year who have made a big difference in how you do your work.
  3. Transparency: Information has come quickly, changed often, and demanded credibility. As communicators, we may prefer to have a response to almost anything readily available. However, more often we have seen leaders across institutions acknowledging the newness of each facet of the pandemic, including the fact that not everything can be answered immediately. We have shifted from forecasting the future several months out to making timely decisions once trusted information provides more clarity. That admission can add to credibility, highlighting a process based on evidence and information.

Your list may look different from the one above, and we would like to know more about your highlights. Email Meagan Pierluissi at internalcomms@umn.edu.