Guide to Effective Crisis Communication

Best Practice Guide

The crisis communication challenge

When companies are in the midst of a crisis, they’re juggling a collection of critical communications issues— from upset customers to negative media coverage, to getting the word out to employees, shareholders and stakeholders, often under incredible time pressures and high stress.

A fundamental skill of crisis communication is communicating the right information to the right people at the right time. Just ask the leaders at Keysight Technologies, Inc, a U.S. company that manufactures electronics test and measurement equipment and software, that featured in a November 2017 Harvard Business Review study on crisis management. When a large wildfire broke out at 10 p.m. in October 2017 near Santa Rosa, California, Keysight’s headquarters and many employees’ homes were in the mandatory evacuation zone.

Keysight Technologies hit a number of crisis communications bullseyes in its response. Executives spent the night calling employees to ensure their safety while coping with unreliable mobile phone and internet service. Next, the company provided sales teams with targeted customer communications and met in-person with key customers to reassure them they’d receive their orders on time. Customers soon informed Keysight that its competitors had been in touch, claiming Keysight wouldn’t be able to deliver and offering to fill in any gaps. Keysight responded by again reassuring customers and asking the competitors’ CEOs to stop or it would publicize the predatory behavior.

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