Communicating through a crisis

A seven-step communications checklist 

Most businesses have a crisis plan, but often those do not include how to communicate through that crisis.

Polymedia has been supporting clients as they communicate through difficult times for more than 30 years. We've all experienced the Covid-19 crisis, but disaster can strike at any time, for a number of reasons. The key is being prepared in advance, and then keeping a cool head when it happens.

Here’s our simple checklist of steps to ensure you communicate professionally, effectively and sympathetically through a crisis.


Step 1: Identify your ‘audiences’

Ask yourself - who are the people who matter to us?

List them as categories in the first instance. They’re likely to include:

  • Staff - and probably different layers of staff
  • Customers
  • Suppliers and the broader supply chain
  • Shareholders

They might also include other stakeholders, the likes of:

  • Contract workers and freelancers
  • Political audiences like regulators or your political representatives
  • Financial stakeholders like the bank or other funders
  • The local community
  • The business community

Step 2: Where are you now with communication?

Armed with a list of categories, review when and how have you communicated with each of them about issue?

When did you communicate? What did you say? Is it time for an update?

We don’t mean a random e-shot just to reassure. Is there a genuine reason to update? Things may have changed, situations might need to be clarified, reassurance might need to be given.


Step 3: Review and prepare

Take each audience and ask “do I need to reach out to this audience now, and if so, why?”

For some the answer may be ‘yes’ - staff for example will need regular and informal contact.

Others will be ‘no’ - most audiences only need the occasional contact when you have something to say - otherwise you’ll just be an annoyance.

Take each separately. Their needs will be different and the tone of voice you use may be different for each.


Step 4: What mechanisms or platforms do I have for reaching out?

List them so you can cross reference them against your audiences.

They’re likely to include a selection from:

  • Intranet
  • E-shot - how are your databases?
  • Personal email
  • Personal calls
  • Management cascade systems
  • Your website
  • Social media
  • Engagement on social networking such as LinkedIn
  • Formal letter
  • Answerphone messages
  • Posters
  • And so on

Step 5: Preparing to reach out

You are now ready to begin to reach out to those audiences who are on your ‘yes’ list.

Again, take each individually and focus on them.

Draft the message - whether that’s an email, a call content overview (not a verbatim script), website or intranet post or social media.

Ensure your communications are professional, authentic, as transparent as possible, clear, concise and above all calm.

Then ask someone objective to sense-check them.


Step 6: Reaching out

Begin the process methodically of communicating your messages to your audiences using the platforms you have identified are best for them

Ensure you respond to any engagement with the same core messaging you identified at the outset and in the right tone of voice for that audience.


Step 7: Repeat

We’d probably recommend going through the checklist process regularly, probably daily, although mostly you will decide there is no communication required for the majority of your audiences.




The team at Polymedia are experienced supporting retained clients through crisis scenarios including the Covid-19 outbreak. If you would also like assistance, we can help at an hourly-rate – just get in touch.

Call Jo Kedward, Graeme Patfield or Julie Fuge on 01329 822866.

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