Crisis Communication: The Power Of Video During Uncertain Times

Paul Herdman

Nothing tests a global organization’s ability to communicate quickly and effectively like a crisis: a data breach, leadership scandal, terror attack, natural disaster, or even a major political event like Brexit. How companies deal with crisis impacts everything from revenue to customer satisfaction and even stock price—and in a time when these events have become a regular part of business, Global 2000 organizations are putting crisis management technologies at the very top of their investment lists.

Amidst all the recent uncertainty, video is quickly emerging as the most powerful and preferred corporate communication medium. Not only is video an authentic way to communicate; it is also accessible from almost any device stakeholders use to consume content. Forward-thinking organizations understand that video accounts for three-quarters of online traffic, and are now leveraging their enterprise video platforms as go-to systems for distributing information and connecting executives with company stakeholders in crisis situations.

The changing face of crisis communication

The fact is, today most crisis communications—even at Global 2000 organizations—are centered around mass email, corporate blogs, press releases, conference calls, and general word of mouth. These modes of communicating during a crisis will never disappear, but as primary methods, each offers an inflexible, impersonal, or delayed communication channel that cannot adapt to the chaotic and rapidly moving environment a crisis can create.

And even when no crisis is imminent, in large organizations, senior executives rarely have direct contact with the wider workforce. The name of the CEO may be well-known, but practical opportunities for face time in a dispersed enterprise encompassing thousands of employees across multiple locations are limited. As executives attempt to ensure everyone in the company is up-to-date on crisis-related action plans, traditional communication channels are creating a lack of overall employee preparedness.

The case for a video-centric crisis communications strategy

Decades of research have found that visuals are processed at hyper-speed by the brain. In fact, one researcher has estimated that watching one minute of video is the equivalent of hearing 1.8 million words. It is this foundational fact that makes video exponentially more effective when information is fluid. Not only does video allow the provision of real-time information, but it also offers both control over messaging and information security: two things traditional crisis communication methods cannot match. A short, real-time video can be created quickly and shared with everyone, or only with people who have the necessary security permissions—and at a higher level of impact, understanding, and retention.

Enterprise video also offers senior management a simple way to engage directly, enabling employees to see and hear from them versus their representatives. In addition, video offers a more personalized way of conveying a message, which results in increased retention and engagement. The bottom line is, when it comes to how a company deals with a crisis, video is the most effective medium to communicate, reassure, and demonstrate leadership to stakeholders.

Video crisis communication in the real-world

For a global organization, distributing effective company-wide communication is a challenge, even under normal circumstances. But in a crisis, lack of timely information and credible detail can fuel misconception, and allow rumors and misinformation to quickly take the place of facts.

What if executive teams could quickly produce brief videos that explain facts surrounding a crisis, give staff immediate instructions on what to do, and outline the company’s strategy for mitigating impact? In preparation for the UK’s EU referendum last summer, a large global bank shot two different videos to explain what a Brexit vote would mean for customers in both the In and Out scenarios, creating a readiness for questions and concerns regardless of the vote. Alternatively, a French bank chose to produce a PDF document. In both cases the content was business-critical, but which communication do you believe reached more people faster and more effectively?

A practical and reliable tool

Video is now an expected communication channel both in life and the digital workplace, and businesses are capitalizing on this shift by using video as a practical and reliable tool in corporate communications. When a crisis happens, video has an immediacy and emotional power that makes it perfect for disseminating facts, messages, and information quickly to employees and stakeholders.

In crisis situations, video also has the power to compel decision-makers to convey information in the form of a story— where, according to psychologist Jerome Bruner, it is 20 times more likely to be remembered. The fact is, people are engaged by video in a way that is simply not possible with voice, text, or still images. The first step toward acceptance within enterprises is to incorporate video into regular communications patterns. Only then can video communication become an effective way to disseminate information and engage stakeholders in a crisis.

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Paul Herdman

About Paul Herdman

Paul Herdman is vice president at Qumu EMEA. Paul joined Qumu in 2015, bringing 20 years of experience in senior sales positions, primarily within the software industry, including vice president EMEA at a UK-based risk management startup and enterprise sales at Oracle and Stellent. Email: paul.herdman@qumu.com Twitter: @Qumu LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulherdman/