An agency I work with has been having cashflow problems. Some payments have taken a long time to come through. One of their other contractors commented on his social media:

“A fundamental mistake they have made and continue to make is silence’s catastrophic…if we had been informed they have issues… some of us ..a lot of us …would have waited.”

So, communication is key. Silence is rubbish (not golden). But the dilemma is – what to say? How about: We are seriously going under here, guys. We’re burning up! We’re not being paid by our customers, so therefore can’t pay you. We actually think we might fold. We’ve mishandled our contracts and not secured any money up front, so therefore we’ve left ourselves exposed. We are headless chickens. Everything is dreadful!

No, don’t say these things. But do say something. There are lots of diplomatic, reassuring, sensitive, supportive messages you can put out to keep your freelancers onside. SOME honesty is essential, and remember the mantra of crisis management, we need to “C.A.P the Crisis” (ie show Concern, Action, Perspective). So for example, you could say:

“We understand how frustrating it is for our freelancers to wait for their payments, often several hundred pounds, for many weeks. Please be assured we are doing everything we can to chase payment from the small number of clients who have missed their deadlines. We have now created a schedule of payment for everyone who is owed money, which will be released in date order. In the vast majority of cases we pay within the contractual 8 weeks, and the current cases fall below the high standard we aim for. Please bear with us through these temporary cashflow problems. Our phone lines are always open to discuss this further.”

You do then, of course, have to provide staff who are ready to answer the phone and take some flack. People are frustrated, angry, scared, stressed at having to wait for their money – which they rely on to pay their bills. My daughter was once put on the ‘complaints line’ for her company, and all she did, all day, was take calls from furious customers. It’s very draining, so maybe share the task around – everyone takes their turn. Also remember to put all these messages out on all your social media, and also mailshot everyone who is owed money. It takes 1/2 hour and you NEED to do it.

My point is:

Communication is key in a crisis. Show ‘Concern, Action, Perspective’. For my full training on Crisis Comms, get in touch! I run one day and half-day course, in person or virtually, one-to-one or in small groups. Or DM me on my social media: X: @sarahlockett IG: @sarahlockett1

Sarah Lockett

Sarah Lockett is a former BBC News / Sky News anchor who currently presents a variety of content for corporate clients and delivers media training.
She has presented on BBC News and Sky News, plus reported for Channel Four News, 5 News, Reuters and others.
She now hosts webinars and conferences, chairs corporate/academic panel discussions, hosts award ceremonies and events. She writes, presents and produces training videos, as well as voiceovers (both factual and drama/comedy). She has written two books and is also working as an actor.

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