Crisis communication: the power of video during uncertain times
By Paul Herdman, Vice President, Qumu EMEA
July 27 2018 - Nothing tests a global organisation's ability to communicate quickly and clearly with stakeholders like a crisis - a data breach, a leadership
scandal, a terror attack, a natural disaster or even a major political event like Brexit. How companies deal with crisis events impacts everything from revenue to customer
satisfaction and even stock price and in a time when 'black swan' events have almost become a regular part of business and political life, Global 2000 organisations are putting
crisis management technologies at the very top of their technology investment lists.
Amidst all of the recent uncertainty, video is quickly emerging as a powerful corporate communication medium. Not only is video a personal, authentic and emotive way
to communicate, it is also accessible from almost any device stakeholders use to consume content. Forward-thinking organisations 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
The changing face of crisis communication
Most crisis communications 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 and delayed communication channel that simply cannot adapt to the chaotic and
rapidly-moving environment a crisis can create.
And even when no crisis is imminent, in large organisations senior executives rarely have direct contact with the wider workforce. The name of the CEO may be well
known, but the practical opportunities for face time in a dispersed enterprise encompassing thousands of employees across multiple locations are limited. As executives attempt
to ensure that everyone in the company is clear and up-to-date on company vision, culture and direction, traditional communication channels are creating a lack of overall
The case for a video-centric crisis communication strategy
Decades of psychological and ethnographic 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. 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 that 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 with everyone within the company, enabling employees to see and hear directly from them versus
their representatives, through either live events or on-demand video messages. In addition, video offers a more personalised way of demonstrating leadership and conveying a message,
which result in increased employee engagement.
Video crisis communication in the real world
For a global organisation, 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 rumours and mis-information to quickly take the place of facts.
What if executive teams could quickly produce brief videos that succinctly explain the facts surrounding a crisis, give staff immediate instructions on what to do,
and explain the company's strategy for mitigating impact of the crisis? In preparation for the UK's EU referendum in 2016, while a French bank produced a PDF document, a large
global bank shot two different videos to explain what a Brexit vote would mean for the bank and its customers in both the In and Out scenarios, creating a readiness for questions
and concerns regardless of the vote.
Another example of video's effectiveness as a crisis communications tool occurred at a large UK bank, which used video to limit reputational damage caused by a
failure to pass the Bank of England's 'stress test' for exposure to risky assets in 2016. The bank needed effective internal communication to reassure employees, and effective
external communication powerful enough to reassure investors. Video messages were distributed to the general public via the national press. The purpose of the video messages was
to manage public expectations, particularly with regard to a Government bail-out. The video content was used as B-roll by many outlets, which kept inbound calls and panic over
the bank's status to a minimum. The CEO also spoke to the bank's internal audience of employees via video, striking a personal tone and focusing on how important and valuable
staff would be to the bank's eventual emergence from the crisis. In addition, the hosted videos messages also delivered crucial data on how many people were watching and
listening to the news.
Implementation and best practice
In order for video to become a natural part of crisis communication, enterprise video platforms must integrate seamlessly with the communication infrastructures
already in place - systems like Skype for Business, SharePoint, IBM Connections and Oracle WebSphere. And given the reputational sensitivities, it is essential that video
communication also be secure. The capability to restrict viewing to specific groups or individuals should be available. Video should also be deliverable both inside and outside the
firewall and feature on-premise and cloud capabilities for availability anywhere, anytime and on any device.
Secondarily, enterprise video technology must also be sophisticated enough to allow videos to be auto-deleted after viewing, eliminating worries that anyone is
viewing an out-of-date version or sharing inappropriately. Viewership should also be tracked, so communications managers can see who is up-to-date and who still needs to be
Creating effective videos is easy
It wasn't long ago that creating high quality video for internal and external use required expensive cameras, state-of-the-art audio hardware, dedicated video
rooms and a small staff of experts who knew how to use it all. That said, today's enterprise video platforms are both easy to use and work seamlessly with existing technology
infrastructure - not only the dedicated video rooms that still exist among many Global 2000 firms, but also the built-in audio and video technology found in today's laptops,
tablets, desktop computers and mobile phones. More than any other method of corporate communication, crisis communications require a level of credibility and engagement that
can only come with organically produced videos. Although the perception is that corporate video is difficult to capture and stream, the reality is nearly anyone in the organisation
can produce and distribute high-value video assets with the right enterprise platform in place.
Getting your executives on board
At this point in the progression of enterprise video, the increased engagement video provides over communication methods like email, teleconferencing and instant
messaging is above debate. But what still needs to be understood and considered by executives is that an enterprise video platform can enable live, scalable, two-way communication
between them and their globally distributed employee and customer bases - tens of thousands of concurrent users at one time - with no loss of performance or broadcast quality. In
addition, the right enterprise video platform will be able to deliver live or on demand video assets to any device, regardless of configuration or operating system, without
negatively impacting network infrastructure performance. Which, of course, is the primary component any global organisation requires if they are attempting to create a true
Video is now an expected communication channel in day to day life, as well as within the true digital workplace. Whether for entertainment, information or staying
connected, most of us watch multiple videos per day on multiple devices. Businesses are capitalising on this shift by using video as a practical and reliable tool in corporate
communications. When a crisis lands, video has an immediacy and emotional power that makes it easier to disseminate facts, messages and information quickly to employees and
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 will video communication become an effective way to disseminate information
and engage stakeholders when a crisis lands.