In parts I and II of our series on crisis communications, we provided an overview of what crisis in business is – and is not – and explored how to plan for crisis and respond to the media and other outside parties.

In this third and final part, we look at internal crisis communications – the all-important, two-way flow of information between employers and employees.

Focus Inward
Though we tend to prioritize outside messages (what will we tell the media?), internal crisis communication is every bit as important as what is said to external audiences. Company personnel are our most precious resources. Not only do they ensure effective business operations, they are also the rank-and-file staff in whom outside parties often have more faith than corporate officials (though designating spokespeople is paramount). Putting staff first is critical.

Have a Plan
The need for a strategy in advance of crisis to share with all levels of staff cannot be overstated. Not only does a plan equip your company with a road map of what to do if crisis occurs, it also imparts to your team how valued they are, building trust, morale and even work ethic.

How Will You Protect Your Team?
Assuming that you will brainstorm all manner of disastrous possibilities (and you should), the physical safety of your staff is top on the list of priorities. Envision scenarios that could pose bodily threat (a fire, flood, explosion, bomb, shooting, widespread food contamination), and devise a plan for how you will quickly and efficiently safeguard your team in each of them. Obtain advice ahead of time from police, emergency personnel, government agents, etc., as appropriate. Run drills of these procedures so your staff can practice and become familiar with them and you can assess their effectiveness before they’re actually needed.

How Will You Inform Your Team During Crisis?
Information is the first line of defense during crisis, and having push notification technology in place is a formidable shield against danger. Push notifications go out through various channels (text, email, phone alerts, P.A.) without requiring recipients to solicit – or pull – information themselves. These notices should be clear and explicit about what has happened, what to do and where to find further information, such as a dark website.

About Social Media
Social media is not ideal for the dissemination of information during crisis, to either external or internal audiences. Its potential to spawn viral false reporting is enormous, and the time and effort that goes into proper, up-to-the-minute monitoring is exhausting. However, because social media is an instantaneous and pervasive means by which anyone and everyone can say anything and everything, companies are wise to post an accurate, authorized, preferably pre-prepared statement about their crisis on social media. Boilerplate copy is okay, provided it can be tweaked and updated by vetted admins to individual circumstances. Heavens knows, you don’t want @ludesfordudes snapping a photo of your building’s fire and slapping it all over the Internet with no authorized response from you about the situation.

What Should Your Team Know?
Just as honesty is paramount in external crisis communications, total transparency must be the guiding rule inside the company as well. Provide staff with truthful, expedient, accurate information about not only the crisis itself (including damage to persons, property, reputation, stock holdings, etc.), but how it may impact their personal employment status, if at all. Let there be no time of silence, not only for the sake of trust and transparency, but to forestall the inevitable rumor mill that will grow the longer information is withheld. After push notifications have instructed employees about what to do during crisis, face-to-face conversations or audio/video conferences should ensue as well as point-by-point emails, internal memos and other company-wide communications about the situation and its impact.

Messages should be as consistent across all tiers of employment as possible and originate from the same source at the same time. This will mitigate misunderstanding of the situation and foster a sense of unity and ownership across the entire company. Convey to staff what you are doing to move forward in a positive direction – but be careful not to say more than you know. Don’t share anything you cannot verify.

Whom Should Your Team Tell – Or Not?
This question underscores the importance of keeping your staff in the loop, accurately and thoroughly informing them of the crisis as it unfolds and enters various stages. “Employees are increasingly important voices during crisis,” said Shel Holtz, principal at Holtz Communication + Technology in San Francisco. However, it is imperative that staff not speak to the media about the crisis. This is the territory of media-trained, designated spokespeople only.

Next, dissuade unauthorized personnel from posting information or engaging in commentary about your crisis on their social media, for the reasons stated above about the viral and erroneous nature of online discourse. That said, HR and communications experts differ on whether employees should be able to communicate externally about their company’s crisis.

Some say it’s simply not feasible to stem the tide of online comments and inquiries. Instead, employees should be armed with accurate and timely information to offer, if evoked, on their personal platforms. According to the Public Relations Society of America, “The natural inclination for many companies in crisis is to send messaging to employees and ask them to spread the word. But it only works if employees have been prepared, and if a discipline exists that allows them to do so effectively.”

Regardless of the differences of opinion on this matter, social posting should be done very cautiously and judiciously. It’s just too easy to get carried away in the exponential chitter chatter, and less is more.

What Should Your Team Tell You?
Encourage questions and conversations among your employees. Let them know there will be no reprisals for sharing and that your door is open to talk and, more importantly, listen. If possible, install a hotline or other line(s) of communication for staff to confidentially let management know of a potentially dangerous or damaging situation before it occurs. Examples of this might be witnessing abusive or neglectful behavior of residents by another staff member, in the case of a senior living community, or a malfunctioning gas line. Freedom to communicate in both directions is essential to the prevention of, reaction to, and recovery from crisis.

Thank you for your engagement in this three-part series on crisis communications. We hope this has been a helpful guide. If you have further questions or would like the assistance of our team of experts in planning for and managing crisis in your business, please feel free to contact us. We’re here for you!

IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.

 

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It’s addicting!  The fast-paced, ever changing world of public relations and marketing captures your interest and keeps you charged up to learn more everyday.  I love to find the best ways to tell our client’s stories and man, they have awesome stories!

It’s my job to discover our client’s goals and then match the best processes to achieve them, within their budgets, of course.  I get to explore traditional, digital and every manner of communication to determine which tactics, whether it is direct mail or TV advertising, a new website or PPC (to name just a few) will efficiently and effectively capture the attention of prospects. 

I also get to work with great people at IVY – they’re creative, fun, caring and super smart.  We’ve all been around the industry a while so there is not a novice among us.  Our clients are very cool too and totally passionate about the services they offer.  We’ve been working with most of them for years so we know they truly care about being innovative and responsible to the markets they service.  I have great admiration for all of them and look forward to every day. 

It’s true what “they” say, if you love what you do, you won’t work a day of your life!

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IVY was established in 1990 with a basic premise to offer professional, ethical and highly creative marketing, advertising and public relations services. We have successfully maintained our core values and have been part of many amazing projects, client growth and changes in the world of marketing that continue to happen at lightening speed. Most of our clients serve older adults in some capacity so we keep abreast of the opportunities and challenges they face.   Each day, we keep it real and fun and consistently deliver positive results to our clients and their markets.

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As a hybrid graphic and digital designer/web developer with over 17 years of experience, I am always on the lookout for innovative digital and print visual communications. IVY Marketing Group’s broad range of projects keeps my job challenging and rewarding, as each campaign is a new and exciting opportunity to effectively communicate our clients’ messages and help them achieve their goals. It’s my passion!

My body of work encompasses a diverse design style and wide base of clients, ranging from national associations, small businesses and big name brands like Hyatt and LiftMaster. I firmly believe that form follows function and highly value the communicative power of simplicity. 

Areas of professional expertise include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Word Press, Responsive Design, CSS3, and HTML5. The industries I’ve served include senior living, health care, hospitality and finance.

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All my life, I have loved writing. As a child, I could often be found in my room “writing a book.” While “novelist” is not (yet) on my resume, I am a storyteller. I believe that everyone and everything has a great story, and it is my joy to find that story and share it with the world.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism and completing my master’s studies in the same field, I joined a small advertising agency with powerhouse clients in the hospitality industry, such as Hyatt, Hilton International and Carnival Cruise Lines. I began as a proofreader and achieved the position of senior copy writer within a year.

After my first son was born, followed by two more, I started a freelance writing business that included (among several others) such clients as Advocate Health Care and Coldwell-Banker Realty. Clients in the education arena included DeVry University’s Becker CPA and Stalla CFA Reviews, DePaul University, and Naperville School District 203, for which I won two state public relations awards.

For nine years, I was employed as Communications Director for a large faith community, where I managed all aspects of internal and external communications. I was writer, editor, designer, web master, and content manager.

As such, I am experienced and comfortable writing multimedia for a broad variety of industries, products and services.

I joined IVY Marketing Group in 2013, when I began writing client press releases on a freelance basis. I loved the work—and my teammates—so much, I was thrilled when I was invited to come on board in a greater capacity.

I have immensely enjoyed getting to know our valued clients in the senior housing industry, the people they serve, and telling the many wonderful stories that come out of content marketing done right—with the love and care our IVY teams puts into everything we do.

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It all starts with one idea. Working with the Ivy creative team for over two decades has always meant taking one great idea and bringing it to life to help our clients meet their goals. We enjoy the challenges offered with every creative opportunity and try to make the design process itself enjoyable for our clients.

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Making certain that the projects IVY produces are word- and picture-perfect is my specialty. But I also love implementing marketing campaigns and programs that bring our clients success. Details are my thing, so it is a pleasure to have worked with IVY twice now, first after college four years ago and, recently, for the past two years.

The IVY Group is a terrific team of creative, positive and talented professionals that I love working with and, judging from the length of stay of our clients, I think they love our team, too!

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Rock-climbing, training for an 80-floor stair climb event, running a 5K…This is just a tiny peek into what people 20 and even 30 years older than I am, are doing on a fairly regular basis at some of the retirement communities that IVY represents.

I’m of the generation that still has reoccurring nightmares about what the next step looked like when my grandmother could no longer live by herself. The very best option at that time was living at a “facility” and  included eating rubbery chicken and playing an occasional game of BINGO. Period. That’s why my parent’s generation begged us not to ever put them into “one of those places.”

I am so proud that IVY’s clients are at the very forefront of an industry that creates opportunities, challenges, and most of all freedom for seniors, allowing them to explore hobbies, interests, passions…the next chapter of their very full lives.

I feel reassured for my own future. Even more, I feel honored to be able to share the impactful stories about this paradigm shift in the world of senior housing. What we hear and see at our clients’ communities is fascinating and inspiring!

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Keeping up to date on new public relations strategies, online engagement tactics, and promotional tools is my passion.

With my hospitality background in marketing top Chicago restaurants and hotels, I was eager to bring fresh concepts and communication strategies to our clients and have really enjoyed learning various industries.

Our clients have such exciting and unique events and programs, which really makes it motivating for me to make the most of their content.  Results like increased sales leads, website visits and social media connections make everyday rewarding and interesting.

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I oversee, plan and implement projects and processes at IVY.  Often,  I am the conduit between our writers and designers, with printers, and other vendors to fulfill the marketing needs for our clients. I also manage media buys and coordinate production of advertisements.

Working for a flexible and fluid company that is constantly growing, changing and evolving is fun and rewarding. There is always something new to learn.

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My bio has a big blank in the beginning—Mom and Dad rescued me in Wisconsin, and no one really knows my origins. They were probably ruff. What matters though is where I am now, running IVY Marketing Group. There are humans here who think they’re in charge. In truth, they do actually have amazing experience in content marketing and public relations, but I’m super important and the center of attention. I mean, look at this face. Right? And I know I’m the top dog because honestly, I’m the only one allowed to sleep through staff meetings and eat things that people drop on the floor.

The fact is though that I truly love staying awake at staff meetings. Everyone talks and laughs and they’re always excited. That surprises me a little because it’s not like anyone has thrown a ball to play fetch or anything. But I guess what gets my pack of peoples’ tails wagging is their work and their clients. I don’t know what a website or a blog is, but I do know that my pack must be good at them because they’ve earned all sorts of awards for these and other things. My bed had to be moved because the framed certificates were taking up so much room. Despite the inconvenience, I’m proud of these awards!

I serve several important purposes at IVY. I always let Mom (and the world) know when the mailman is here. When people come into the office, just one (usually) quick non-invasive (usually) sniff, allows me to determine important characteristics…like if they had anything good for breakfast, own any pets (pet owners are the best!) or if they stepped in anything on the way in. (It’s sort of like me conducting a first job interview.) I generously share my tummy because I know people like to give it a good scratch. I always give kisses, whether one is feeling lonely or not. And I’m always happy to share someone’s meal, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. My pack describes me as being engaging, amusing, and entertaining. (When I hear a siren, I “sing” along and it makes them laugh.) NPR talks about the benefits of having a pet at the workplace. Studies show pets lower stress hormones and improve morale and productivity. I wholeheartedly agree that a dog in the workplace is the best thing since rawhide bones.

As for my pack of people at IVY…they are amazing and always make my tail wag!

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