Is your institution ready to communicate in a crisis?

CEOs and other senior leaders at credit unions were quick to react after bank failures this spring, but are their teams prepared to communicate proactively as the landscape continues to evolve?

Given the timing of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failure, the weekend provided valuable time for leaders to reflect on the events and communicate with key stakeholders. This may have included updating the board of directors or discussing the situation with other senior team members.

For many, it also included public reminders about the federal share insurance that covers depositors up to at least $250,000 and letting staff know that they may receive questions regarding the cooperative’s strength and stability. Fortunately, these direct questions from members were few and far between. But what if more failures crop up down the road? And what will happen if the next potential threat hits closer to home?

An effective framework

While no organization can prepare for every scenario, developing a communications framework can help ensure that the right players are in the room to determine the most appropriate course of action as events unfold.

Here are a few of the questions to ask as you develop such a framework internally:

  • What constitutes a crisis? What type of crisis situations have we planned for?
  • Who is responsible for crisis communications?
  • What if that individual is unreachable? Who are their trained back-ups?
  • How will we make decisions regarding what to communicate to key audiences and when?
  • Which key players need to be part of the decision-making process if a crisis occurs?
  • Which communication channels will we use in the event of a crisis?
  • Do the appropriate people (at least 3) have access to all these channels?

Different levels of potential crisis events

A well-developed crisis communications plan isn’t just useful during an industry-wide event. Proactive internal and external communication planning, along with regular updates and testing, can help your team make better decisions and communicate quickly to key audiences whenever unexpected issues arise.

Here are a few examples of when your institution may need to “activate” its plan:

  • Mergers
  • Name changes
  • Core, online and mobile banking conversions
  • Data breaches
  • External market events

Anytime there is a big change coming, your team needs to be prepared. Even positive changes are often met with resistance, especially as negative comments are easy to post publicly on social media.

Imagine the following scenario: You’ve been promoting an upcoming conversion for months, but despite ample testing, the system doesn’t perform as it should, leaving the members you serve frustrated. A vocal minority begins attacking the credit union, including its leadership team and board of directors. They happen to gain the attention of the local media, which creates a snowball effect of even more negative comments. How should your team respond?

This type of scenario planning should be part of each new project a credit union undertakes. Proactive communication prior to the launch of new products, services or system changes is important and can reduce or even minimize negative feedback in many instances. However, having a solid plan if things go wrong can be even more important.

A more productive organization

In nearly every organization, the need to improve communication is identified by employees through survey comments and everyday feedback. Credit unions that are focused and intentional in their communication planning and execution will foster happier employees, a stronger culture, and a more productive work environment. In short, better communication results in better service and can lead to more sustainable growth and long-term success.

ALM First’s Strategic Solutions Group works with financial institutions nationwide to help them plan for and execute proactive communications plans. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your credit union.

Jessica Richardson-Isenegger

Jessica Richardson-Isenegger

Jessica Richardson-Isenegger joined ALM First in 2022. As a Managing Director within the firm’s Strategic Solutions Group, Jessica provides clients with targeted communication, PR, and marketing services. She works ... Web: Details