How To Communicate Through a Crisis with the States of Guernsey Communications Team
This week, the BV team attended the island’s only CIPR event this year, “Communicating through a Pandemic” with the States of Guernsey (SoG) communications team.
Since the news broke about Covid-19, the States of Guernsey has been rightly praised for how it has communicated vital, accurate information in a timely way, across all platforms and mediums. So having the team discuss the lessons learnt from navigating their way through a pandemic felt very fitting for this year’s CIPR event.
The comms team was behind the planning, strategy, social media presence, press briefings and media liaison at the height of the pandemic, and remains hard at work on the government’s response.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the team’s presentation:
Plan & Prepare
Nothing could have prepared us for a global pandemic, but having a pre-prepared communications plan proved pivotal to providing a successful crisis response for the States of Guernsey.
The team highlighted the importance of planning for the worst when it came to delivering their communications, whether that was a press briefing or a social media statement.
When the first case in Guernsey was announced, the team was already planning for difficult questions from the media, scrutiny from the public and the possibility of an island lockdown – so they were prepared to handle the multitude of challenges ahead of them.
As a communications agency, we understand the importance of being prepared for a crisis. Having a pre-prepared crisis communications plan will help an organisation to issue statements, handle media enquiries and stay on top of social media comments swiftly and efficiently.
Trial & Error
Despite the well-deserved praise from the public, the team described the hiccups they had along the way and how they held up their hands and learnt from the mistakes made in the earlier days of the crisis. By doing this, the States of Guernsey began to build a trusting relationship with the community.
Technical and logistical mishaps weren’t ideal, but because the fundamental information was always delivered clearly, the general public was happy to overlook and forgive. Sometimes things just don’t work, especially when you are navigating through a crisis that none of us has ever experienced before.
As communicators, being honest about our mistakes and learning from them is what makes us human and builds trust between us and our clients. The very nature of crisis communications means that there is sometimes no perfect response or plan, but constantly learning and adjusting the strategy will keep you moving forward.
The Human Factor
The human factor is something we talk about a lot at Black Vanilla. To be a good communicator, recognising we are all human is essential, especially during such a disruptive and challenging time.
The SoG team presented a variety of ways in which they incorporated the human factor into their communications strategy, one of which was completely changing the tone of their social media presence.
The SoG Facebook page went from 5,000 followers to 28,000 in just a few months, so the Head of Social knew that they needed to pay careful attention to what messages they were putting out there and how.
The social media posts went from bland and generic to friendly, relatable and honest. A huge sense of community was created through the #GuernseyTogether campaign, with the SoG posting pictures and words of encouragement daily as well as clear and concise information.
This human factor also came across in last night’s presentation as the team kept it light-hearted and entertaining. It was evident that the team worked extremely well together, speaking very highly of one another and the importance of the teamwork that got them through the height of the pandemic.
The SoG’s Top Tips on Managing Crisis Comms
- Understand the principles you are operating by
- Have the right spokespeople
- Remember to be human, have empathy and admit when you are wrong
- Have a great team behind you
We take our hats off to the States of Guernsey comms team, along with the leaders and their teams, and want to thank them for sharing their valuable insights.
At Black Vanilla we are passionate about clear communication, believing that it is fundamental to interaction, transaction, relationship-building and problem-solving.
We are also experts in crisis communications and offer a crisis communications service that may be of interest to you and your company.
Our crisis management training can help you and your team to ensure you are prepared for a crisis and well-equipped to protect your brand reputation when things don’t go to plan.
Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the office on 01481 729229.