We all love a good crisis, right?
We’ve suddenly found ourselves in what feels like a scary dream. Except it isn’t. And we’re not particularly enjoying this crisis. It’s happened almost overnight and it’s created devastation and uncertainty. As a rule, we’re not that great at dealing with uncertainty and so naturally it’s not sitting right with people, businesses and the world at large. All this uncertainty is causing stress levels to go through the roof, making people close up and go insular and prompting tunnel vision effects; where people focus on the now rather than the future.
Having worked with hundreds of businesses to help them transform, at Fluxx we’re naturally curious about what businesses can do to help their people, customers and stakeholders. For starters, according to Fluxx Exec Parter Jenny Burns; Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Jenny knows a thing or too about Crisis Comms, after all she is PR Week Comms Personality of the Decade and has over 20 years of experience in Senior Corp Communication roles making transformational and innovative changes in complex businesses like O2, RSA, British Gas and Barclays Bank.
Curious to find out more, Fluxxer Jassi grabbed Jenny for 5 virtual minutes to have a coffee and a natter.
Jenny, can you tell me the steps business leaders should put in place during a crisis?
“At times of crisis, our instincts tend to tell us to react, keep things close, or even do nothing. Leaders need to fight all those instincts; pause, get the right people involved, get a plan in place then act decisively and communicate openly.”
Talking of communication, what are your golden crisis communication rules?
“I usually apply five golden rules. Faced with uncertainty, people usually look to leaders for timely, clear and transparent guidance; someone to make sense of it all, so you will need to:
- Communicate with purpose. Give people what they need, when they need it. Think about why you are communicating and the purpose of the message.
- Be clear, to the point and informative — don’t add to the ‘noise’, keep language clear, jargon-free and get to the point quickly.
- Never waiver from your values. We’re in unprecedented times and while you need to protect your interests, your people and stakeholders need understanding, empathy and support too. If you remember your values it will guide what you say and do, thus protecting and upholding your reputation.
- Visibility matters. Don’t hide from difficult conversations, be visible, approachable and honest about where things stand even in a digital world. They don’t need to be big company wide comms either, 121 video calls are vital and keeping your ear to the ground is super important.
- Derive meaning from the chaos. Help people understand your vision for how the organisation and its people will emerge when the crisis is over. Then tell people about it.”
Do you think opportunity will emerge from the crisis?
“Absolutely. C-19 has thrust us all into an abyss of unknowns. Except one thing is for certain — the way we interact, socialise, view the world and the way we work will be changed forever. This has posed a number of risks for businesses but it also provides opportunity. Businesses need to adapt fast, strengthen stakeholder relationships, demonstrate expertise, be supportive and show the human side. There’s a lot to cover here so if you’re interested you can take a look at the series of articles I’ve written on the topic; Adapting is definitely the new normal.”
What do you think businesses should be thinking about in the long term?
“It’s going to be a tough year at least, if not longer as businesses figure out the new normal, and it will be different for different industries. One thing’s for sure, it will take a huge helping of resilience, along with innovation and creativity to ensure we come through the recession created by Covid-19. At Fluxx we’re running a series of Innovation bootcamps to help businesses and individuals gain the necessary skills to get through the recession. Now is the time for businesses to dig deep, look at the skills they need to pivot their business or face becoming a C-19 casualty.”
So for those who don’t know, can you tell me what you are doing at Fluxx?
“We’re looking after the wellbeing of Fluxxers and we’re using my golden communication rules to make sure our people are informed, safe and supported. We’re embracing the challenges of the crisis and continuing to work with our clients on projects and helping them adjust, adapt and pivot their offering to protect short and long term interests of the business. For example we’re working on a future scenarios piece with a well known property developer and building a new content strategy for the UK’s largest healthcare provider.”
Thanks for the virtual coffee Jenny, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about how to pivot during a crisis.
Jenny Burns is a Partner at Fluxx, a company that uses experiments to understand customers, helping clients to build better products. Find out more about our work with Zopa, Vogue, Nationwide and Croydon Council, or email Jenny Burns at email@example.com.
Are you curious as to how Fluxx has helped companies such as Condé Nast, Mars, Thames Water, HSBC, Addison Lee Group and many more? Check out Fluxx Studio Notes. Want to learn the secrets for sustained, repeatable innovation models, from expert practitioners? Check out The Innovation Starter Kit. Stay tuned with all that’s Fluxx by following us on LinkedIn or signing up for our WTF Newsletter. Thanks to Gemma Slater.