Why video is crucial for any crisis communication plan

March 20, 2020
Video for crisis communications
Forget toilet paper shortages – if the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of a crisis communication plan in times of extreme uncertainty. But how do you ensure business continuity with over 100 countries affected and governments encouraging new social distancing, even instituting national lockdowns? With travel and events so restricted, how do you communicate with a global workforce gone remote?  
We’re lucky at Shootsta, because the heart of our product – our video production platform – is digital. But we’ve also been very fortunate to realise how much video, the medium we champion every day, has kept us connected across offices and oceans; whether it’s virtual client meetings, webinars as a workaround for scheduled events or internal business updates shot on mobile phones.
  So if you, like us, need to keep your business running (even if everyone’s working from home), read on to discover why and how video can help successfully deliver your crisis communication plan.  

What is a crisis communication plan?

A crisis communication plan is a documented strategy for how your business will proactively and reactively handle an emergency or other potential crises (e.g. natural disasters like bushfires), whether HR or PR crisis-based in nature. This plan should outline what to do when a crisis occurs, how to communicate with key stakeholders / employees / customers / the public, and how to assess the incident response post-crisis, for long-term prevention. It’s also important to be specific about your crisis communication definition i.e. what constitutes a ‘crisis’ for your business, and what forms should communication take? As timeliness is everything, a process that facilitates speed of sharing information in escalation or activation is critical.
  Your plan should also identify your crisis management team, with team members typically consisting of a CEO, COO and leadership e.g. VPs, as well as HR and PR / communications directors and legal lead. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to appoint a crisis communications team for internal and external crisis messages too.
  No crisis communication plan? Don’t worry, HubSpot’s got you covered with their crisis communication plan template. In light of recent events, you might also want to check out the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19’ PDF – it’s a great resource.

Why video matters in a time of crisis

The recent coronavirus outbreak is eye-opening, in that it’s a crisis communication plan example that organisations may not have been preparing for pre-crisis – but it’s not too late. For example, while the US technology industry is renowned for its ability to pivot, now that companies like Google are banning travel or advocating for social distancing via remote work, businesses like those on the Staying Home Club list are setting the bar for leadership worldwide by putting safety first. The problem is, for those of us healthy at home, as they say: “the show must go on.” It’s here that the ‘why’ of video becomes glaringly apparent – because in lieu of face to face conversation, video is the best communication tool we’ve got. When a crisis situation like COVID-19 hits, it’s easy to feel uncertain or anxious, maybe even scared (cue people panic buying). But these are also the times when our leaders must step up, and communicate with timeliness, compassion and transparency in what for some industries will mean an economic downturn. It’s not business as usual; but a CEO’s reassurance and support goes a long way in rallying the troops.
  And when the purpose of a crisis communication is to inform, then reassure and inspire – do you really want to do that over email?
“This is a critical time for enterprises to be communicating with authenticity and conviction, in a timely manner with their employees and their clients.” Shootsta CEO Mike Pritchettin a video to our team

How to use video in your crisis communication plan

So you know your crisis communication plan’s goal, you’ve got a crack team, you’ve developed ways of working and you’ve identified any risk factors. Now it’s time to act – and communicate your crisis message.  
When your crisis communication needs to reach as many people as possible, video is best. It’s more engaging than email, it’s superior when you need others to connect emotionally with you and your message – and for viewers, it can get your point across in precious little time. These videos also don’t need to be Hollywood-level; any well-lit, quiet, non-distracting place to film will do. Pro tip: do ensure your talent (whether the CEO or your HR / Operations lead) is practised on camera. An apprehensive or overly-wooden delivery will only serve to hinder efforts in a crisis.

How to structure a good crisis communications video

Script it: If you haven’t nailed autocues / teleprompters before, now is the time. Because it’s a crisis communication, you and your crisis team will have identified key points to address (perhaps from organisational policies with exact verbiage), as well as what steps the business is taking, and what employees can do to help stay safe.
  • We can’t stress this enough: stay on script and don’t waffle. Don’t speculate, don’t make unverifiable promises; set clear expectations and state clear directives, so there’s no room for confusion.
  • Be consistent. Your key messages are just that – key. Ensure they’re aligned, no matter what the channel, and controlling your narrative will feel infinitely more manageable.
  • Use brevity.Your video should be clear, concise and short. Don’t overload with details; instead, use a call to action to direct questions if people need further information e.g. to your intranet.
The 3, 10, 30 rule: At Shootsta, we have specific objectives for the first 3, 10 and 30 seconds of a video: grab attention, set the scene and communicate key messages. For crisis communications, these goals endure – the main difference is in their execution. The first 3 seconds of a crisis video are less about hooking viewers and more about communicating importance / urgency (in a non-alarmist way); the first 10 seconds then cover why this video is essential to viewers; and finally, the first 30 seconds is when you outline actions being taken and what’s now expected of people
  • Keep calm: For fact-based information, use calm, neutral language that’s rational and non-emotional. Then reiterate key messages with reassurance, closing in a way that inspires hope and confidence for the future.
  • Get approvals: Also, know your approvals process for publishing content, especially if public-facing – as your video may need to be reviewed by your HR and / or legal team. Have a deadline and keep bottlenecks flowing.

3 COVID-19 video crisis communication examples

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

The story of the Diamond Princess – the first cruise ship to be quarantined during the coronavirus outbreak – means brands like RCCL are fighting to control their narratives in the midst of an industry-wide panic. And while the majority of CEOs are sending blanket emails to communicate priority messages, this is one of the best examples we’ve seen of a senior leader speaking with warmth, empathy and radical transparency around the impacts of COVID-19 on their business (to quote: “It sucks”). CEO Richard Fain’s language choice is particularly skilled, walking the difficult line between addressing challenges head on, yet in a way that reveals his faith in his wider team to go above and beyond – and the effect is highly motivational. Plus, let’s face it, the calm tropical background (featuring a cruise ship, naturally) doesn’t hurt. One of his final lines: “First and foremost, take care of yourself and your family”; this is exactly the right sentiment to close on, and a case study in living brand values during a crisis.

Hewlard Packard Enterprise

HPE takes a slightly different, more serious tack for their coronavirus update, which makes sense given their primarily enterprise base. The crisis communication video’s look and feel is journalistic – with a green screen background and TV news-sounding intro and outro track – and CEO Antonio Neri’s key points cover the usual spectrum of COVID-19 action items we’ve seen from other leaders (travel and events restrictions, office closure and remote work updates); he also leverages a call to action for further timely information. A great video example for anyone in the B2B space.


As global markets worsen over the coronavirus pandemic, insurance has been impacted. So it’s reassuring to see DUAL APAC CEO Damien Coates deliver a clear, calm sit-down video to broking partners. Set to uninvasive music, the video leverages cutaways to link ideas e.g. ‘flattening the curve’ news footage leading into remote work measures for all employees, with b-roll – reiterating business health values and continuity. Coates’ key messages and body language are proactive and positive, including sharing his personal learnings around connecting with technology. It’s also worth pointing out the use of text animations to reinforce ideas and captions for accessibility. A short, simple video that nails its goal.


If we’re talking crisis communication examples specific to coronavirus, we’d be remiss to leave out Shootsta CEO Mike Pritchett’s public-facing COVID-19 video. At Shootsta, the biggest thing we’re seeing talking to clients and prospects is just how much communication challenges have escalated in business since the outbreak and people’s self-isolation measures. As a result, because we’re a video-first organisation and in a position to help, we’re offering free creative video sessions for everyone – Shootsta clients or not – in order to help businesses stay connected and alleviate some of the anxiety and communication obstacles stemming from a remote (often global) workforce. This is because, as a company, we’re about adding value and giving back to the community – business included. So if there’s anything you can take away from our example, it’s this: if it’s in your wheelhouse, help where you can.

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