Communicating in a Crisis

By: The Ensemble Practice

As the current crisis continues to ripple through the markets and force rapid change on the way we conduct business and interface with clients and colleagues, communication has become a central topic of conversation. Are you proactively calling clients? If so, how often is necessary or appropriate? And which clients should you be contacting the most? Are clients calling you? What concerns are they voicing? And how are you sharing those concerns with the wider team now that most of us are now sheltering in place? These are questions we all have at the moment, and so we wanted to focus the second installment of our Crisis Management webcast series on Communicating in a Crisis.

Four Key Principles of Crisis Communications

Crisis Communications is a balancing act. You want to alleviate anxiety while remaining objective. Demonstrate expertise without giving the false impression that you have total control. Be honest while trying to help your clients stay calm and rational. Here are a few principles to keep in mind.

  1. Understand your stakeholders: Which stakeholders are most affected by the crisis? Do outcomes differ dramatically from one segment to another? Can your obligations be segmented?
  2. Be proactive and timely: Proactive communications enhance the credibility of your firm and enable you to frame meaning. Ideal timing falls somewhere after awareness of the crisis but before it becomes the prevailing issue of the day.
  3. Stay honest, candid and open: Be honest about your firm's role and ability to control and manage the crisis. Acknowledge ambiguity where it exists and be candid about best- and worst-case scenarios.
  4. Show compassion, empathy and commitment: Acknowledge the difficulties your stakeholders are facing, don't dismiss them. Crisis communications that demonstrate empathy and commitment build trust and strengthen loyalty.

We prepared for our Crisis Communications webcast by conducting a short survey of the G2 Community on the topic of Crisis Communications. For the uninitiated, the G2 Leadership Institute is a comprehensive training program that hones the management and leadership skills of second-generation professionals who are on their way to becoming the future leaders of the advisory industry. This two-year program fosters leadership and teamwork skills through a "pilot simulator" where participants are required to make high-impact decisions that will shape the fate of their simulated firms. You can learn more about the G2 Leadership Institute here. Applications for our next class open in June.

Here is an interesting survey result: When asked whether their firms had a crisis communication plan in place prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, 27% of respondents said that they were designing their plan as the crisis unfolded. If this sounds like your firm, it is time to start thinking seriously about which communication strategies are most effective for keeping your clients informed and your colleagues engaged during the strange days ahead.

CEO Philip Palaveev discusses the survey results and examines the best strategies he has learned over the years for communicating difficult news to clients and employees while in the thick of a crisis. We hope you enjoy this presentation on Communicating in a Crisis and find it useful. Please stay tuned for our next episode in our Crisis Management webcast series, which will focus on Maintaining Team Morale.