Interview with Katie Kristofic, SPI Pharma

During today’s uncertain times, marketing and communications pros are being forced to operate through previously uncharted waters. To learn more about navigating this situation, we’ve interviewed communications experts across industries.

This interview is with Katie Kristofic, the Global Marketing Communications Manager for SPI Pharma.

What has been your overarching approach to communication in this time of crisis?

Facts first: “people” are at the heart of all of this; people who are trying to work, to provide for their families either from home or onsite as essential personnel, to teach their children, and make sure elder generations are safe. They don’t have time to sift through the myriad pieces of information out there – that’s what the crisis communications professionals do. During a crisis, people need real-time information so they can make real-time decisions. The facts need to be shared quickly, correctly, and with the right amount of empathy. We are here to serve our companies and communities.

What do you think has been your most effective communication?

We’re a global organization, so in some ways, we are used to not all being together. With that said, we’re new to the concept of everyone working from home full-time. We have implemented a multi-tiered communication approach that seems to work well for us. There is a daily email update, a bi-weekly global town hall with video and then smaller groups meet at a frequency they set themselves to best suit their needs. We are particularly supportive of families with school-aged children at home, sharing ideas of activities to keep them engaged in addition to hosting a weekly Skype session for parents to talk about how they’re navigating through this situation.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for communicators in the coming weeks and months?

Finding the right balance of making sure everyone on the team feels engaged and informed will be a huge challenge, particularly across regions experiencing varying stages of the pandemic. The information being shared doesn’t really matter if the audience doesn’t feel connected and compelled to act in some way as a result. The other challenge is knowing when to pull back and push forth in a way that accounts for the humanity in all of this, because it is significant.

What advice do you have for people in marketing communications for whom this is their first crisis situation?

Take your crisis communication plan, apply the facts you know, and start to build it out. If you don’t have a crisis communication plan, start with writing one. Time is of the essence, however; if you haven’t done this exercise, you will be at a disadvantage through the whole experience. There are models online or you can contact me for a template. 

You need a team. They don’t have to all be communicators —  in fact, it’s best if you have a cross-section of skill sets so that people will see and fill gaps faster. Take breaks to let your mind clear. Crisis communications is mentally and emotionally wearing. Mistakes will happen. When they do, acknowledge them, correct them, and keep moving forward. Crisis communications is a great educator. Be willing to learn the lessons and try again the next day.


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