How much communication is too much during a crisis?
— June 28th, 2020
Professional communicators — even those with years of experience under their belt — are facing a common question right now. How often should they be communicating with employees?
Too much, and people may stop paying attention to your messages entirely. Not enough, and the anxiety and uncertainty employees are already feeling could get worse.
The question isn't new, but the old answers no longer apply. We’re all facing new territory in the midst of COVID-19. As a result, communications professionals have to learn all new best practices based on what employees need now.
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There’s no universal right answer
While inconvenient, the reality is that every business is different and there isn’t a standard answer that will work well for everyone. Every business has been changed in some way by COVID-19, yet the specifics of how each is affected vary considerably.
A travel business that’s furloughed a percentage of its workforce needs to handle things differently than an e-commerce company that’s seen an uptick of orders now that everyone’s home.
No matter what your particular situation is, you can’t treat your communications plan as if nothing has changed. Your employees are all dealing with new concerns and experiences, and your communications should reflect that.
How to determine the right frequency at your organization
As you revise your communications strategy to reflect our current times, there are a few key steps you can take to figure out how often to get in touch with your employees.
Determine how often employees need new information
If you want employees to consistently pay attention to the communications you send, you need to make sure you’re always providing value. Every irrelevant email that lands in their inbox makes them less likely to bother reading the next one. Consider how frequently you have new information they genuinely need.
If the answer is daily, then sending out daily emails is fine. In a recent Poppulo webinar on managing communications during a time of crisis, Roxanne Martinez from DentaQuest shared that they’ve started sending a bite-sized daily email to all employees that packs only the most important information.
While they’ve increased email frequency, “we’re communicating important things,” she emphasizes, “not everything and the kitchen sink.”
By making sure each email is brief and only focused on needed information, they keep it relevant and useful. But at some organizations, every day would be too much. If filling a daily email (even a brief one) feels like a stretch, then sticking with weekly or only as-needed messaging makes more sense.
Find the right balance between one-on-one and mass communication
Sometimes, you have information the entire organization needs all at once, and sending out the same message to the whole community just makes sense. But during a crisis like this one, a lot of people are emotional and people handle that in different ways. Using the same messaging across the board can end up feeling impersonal and less relevant.
At times like this, one-on-one communication becomes more important. Internal leaders can contact managers directly to check-in and make sure they get the specific information they need. And managers can get in touch directly with their employees.
Mass communications may still have a role to play in your overall strategy, but consider making it a smaller part of the whole. By getting more personal, you can better address the particular needs and experiences each employee is having.
Ask employees what they want
Why waste energy guessing at what your employees want to hear when you can go directly to the source? Ask your employees what they’re thinking and feeling, and what information they need to keep doing their jobs effectively.
You can use Pulse surveys to give employees an easy way to share their feedback. Ask them how often they want to hear from you, what format they’d prefer the communication to come in, and what kind of information they most need right now. With their input, you can craft a communications strategy based on what they actually need, rather than your best guess at what that is.
Create an effective strategy for crisis communications
Communications frequency is only one part of figuring out how to effectively communicate with your employees for the duration of this pandemic. To help professional internal communicators – and all the employees that depend on them – get through this difficult time, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on managing internal communications during a crisis.
There are no tried and tested best practices for responding to COVID-19. But with the input of several experts in the field, our guide covers valuable guidelines for helping you determine the best path forward for your organization.