Russia and Ukraine: A Response Guide for Communications Leaders

Russia and Ukraine: A Response Guide for Communications Leaders

Russia and Ukraine: A Response Guide for Communications Leaders - –


We’re less than 48 hours into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, finding ourselves in yet another major world event. While dealing with crises is likely part of your role, a geopolitical event of this nature presents many threats and new considerations for current and future communications planning. You may be coordinating organization-wide responses, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of employees, or thinking about how you’ll manage communications with consumers and other external stakeholders. Here are four key steps to steer your organization through what is expected to be a tumultuous period.
Maintain employee safety and engagement.
Support the physical and psychological needs of employees impacted while connecting the organization’s response to its values. This may be done in partnership with HR and other leaders, but should focus on common care and safety message topics like health and safety measures, cancellation of business travel, office closures, tips for managing stress and opening the door for employee listening to gather and respond to feedback.

See “Communications’ Role in the Care and Safety Phase” in Gartner’s note on Proactively Managing Communications Priorities Across the Three COVID-19 Crisis Communications Phases.
Assess where your organization faces the most potential impact.
Supply chain, energy resources and potential cybersecurity threats are a few of the topics dominating headlines today. Identify experts within your organization who can help navigate potential scenarios related to the sanctions and responses currently at hand. Work to identify what is known and unknown about potential impacts. Similar to how many organizations managed the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, this may be best accomplished as part of a cross-functional crisis team. Use the Crisis Communications Information Checklist to direct your questioning about implications of the crisis on your organization and its stakeholders. 

For additional frameworks to help you gather information and organize a response, see Step 4 of 4: Execute Your Crisis Plan within Garter’s Ignition Guide to Building a Crisis Communications Capability.
Assemble a crisis response team.
Once you’ve assembled a crisis response team, start drafting messaging in response to the potential scenarios identified above. It can feel overwhelming. Especially as you’re likely fielding requests from a range of internal business partners with differing priorities. However, it’s important to remain grounded in prioritizing messaging that aligns with your objectives and audiences.

Use Gartner’s Crisis Communications Message Management Template to help align messaging to organizational pillars and values to ensure consistent and relevant messaging across all audiences and stakeholders.
Examine the Potential Social Issues.
If your organization is not immediately impacted, or is not expected to be impacted by this crisis in the future, you might still feel pressure to engage stakeholders and speak out on the crisis. Gartner survey data indicates that you do not need to rush this decision. Unlike a crisis immediately impacting your stakeholders, this situation would be more broadly classified as a societal issue in your situation. This gives you more time to fully understand the resulting issues at hand (e.g., refugee crisis, cyberattacks) and the justification of your organization’s involvement.

When considering whether to take a stand on a social issue, worry less about rushing to meet expectations for timeliness. Instead, focus on fully understanding the context of the issue and the triggering event. Then pressure-test the rationale for and likely response to your involvement.  

For additional guidance, see Gartner’s research on A Communicator’s Guide to Engaging in Societal Issues.

Regardless of where your organization falls, you should pause media outreach and previously scheduled social media posts. Assess any current and planned campaigns while the situation unfolds. Know that misinformation on social media will be rampant. Ensure your teams are practicing the necessary due diligence to fact check any information before re-sharing.

Schedule a call with an analyst if you need support on your crisis response plan or engaging in social issues around this topic today.