Communicating Through Crisis with Special Guest Panel

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As we focus on a pandemic around the world, we are all searching for information and for answers. On a personal level, we’re relying on our government and our media to share what’s happening. It’s an unprecedented topic and a new normal in our homes, schools and our lives.  But we also wonder about our professional lives. And companies have to interpret the impact of that new normal for employees.  In most companies, that calls up the communications and human resources teams to activate or develop a crisis communication plan.

SW&A hosted a special panel with some of our colleagues and friends, who know how to manage crisis communications. You’ll hear insights and best practices on what employees and customers need and want during trying times. It takes clarity in ambiguity, confidence in uncertainty and some guidance and advice from those who’ve been there a time or two.


More About Our Panel

Patti Wilmot: former HR Leader – Patti has over twenty years’ experience as a former-chief human resources officer. She has helped create award-winning leadership development programs focused on creating a “bench” of future leaders. She brings expertise in assessing talent, improving the effectiveness of leadership teams and helping leaders leverage their strengths to improve effectiveness and impact.

Steve Soltis: former Executive Communications Leader – Steve is a senior adviser with MAS Leadership Communication. Soltis recently retired from The Coca-Cola Company, where he led both executive and internal communication for the past 11 years. In his role at Coca-Cola, Soltis was responsible for orchestrating the company’s entire C-suite executive visibility efforts and for formulating its employee communication strategies and execution.

Francie Schulwolf: Former Communications Leader at InterContinental Hotel Group – Francie’s focus is on developing strong, confident communicators. With close to twenty-five years of global, corporate experience in advertising, marketing and communications, she is intimately familiar with the demands executives face. This understanding, along with her honest and warm style, create a safe and comfortable environment for individuals to learn and grow.

Sally Williamson: Founder of SW&A – Sally is a leading resource for improving the impact of spoken communications. She has developed key messages and coached leaders and their teams to deliver them effectively for more than thirty years. Sally specializes in executive coaching and developing custom programs for groups across company verticals.


Show Highlights:

  • What is the picture of success? What do you want to achieve through this situation?
  • How can businesses leverage this situation? How to win hearts and minds. 
  • What is your central message and who are your stakeholders? 
  • Know how your employees are doing, understand what your consumers are needing to hear.
  • Timing is critical and consistency is key. 
  • Address compensation as best as possible for employees. Be honest with your messaging, if you don’t know the answer let employees know. 
  • You can be just as clear about what you know and what you don’t know.
  • Always show unity with leadership and re-enforce it in your messaging.
  • Figure out who are your best messengers who can clearly communicate. Be in constant contact with your employees. 
  • Come out with messaging that connects with your brand and your culture. 
  • How to construct a plan that shows a picture of success – do this through employee engagement and build off of that. 
  • How do you help a group think about clarity and how to understand it? 
  • How do leaders deliver this messaging to their teams? There needs to be a means to get the message to them, let employees know how it will get to them and be consistent. 
  • Front line people managers are incredibly important during this time, this is the time to step up and this is the time to reach out to employees. 
  • Contact each individual employee frequently and know what is going on with your employees. 
  • Even if you don’t have something to say to employees, still have that touch point to contact them frequently. Employee care is incredibly important. Keep morale up. 
  • Make sure your employees hear about what you are doing before the public knows.
  • Get senior leadership out, touching base with employees personally. 
  • Learn to develop manager talking points from leadership.
  • What companies are doing a good job with communicating their message through the crisis?
  • Clarity of truth is important. Not all companies can give good news. 
  • This is the moment that will define your leadership. 
  • It’s overwhelming as a leader right now, leaders need to be the calming force and utilize empathy.
  • Leaders need to be able to send information both ways, up to higher leadership and down to employees. 
  • Don’t let a world wide crisis become your crisis, do everything with kindness and with accurate information. 
  • Ask people how they are and if they know what they are supposed to be doing during this time. 
  • How we treat our team members now will come back to us.

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!