“Companies show who they are in a crisis,” says Communications Consultant and Crisis Management Expert Lorna O’Neill (pictured above). Throughout her career, she has helped global travel and leisure brands navigate unexpected events and reputational challenges. Crisis management is a term for how a company prepares for and responds to an emergency or urgent and unforeseen challenge, such as the pandemic.

“No business is immune to crisis, no matter how big or small the company, and the more you think about your vulnerabilities and prepare your team, the better you’ll fare.”

Lorna runs crisis management courses for managers, senior leaders and business owners through her company Surge Communications. She also supports businesses with general PR, communications and brand development as a consultant.

“With me, clients get honesty and no nonsense. I aim to be a trusted right-hand person.” Lorna, 39, is a Starling business customer. Surge Communications was founded in 2019 and is based in Liverpool.

Effective crisis management

Lorna has a wealth of experience when it comes to PR, reputation management and crisis communications. “I’m lucky that I’ve known what I want to do from an early age,” she says.

She completed her undergraduate degree in PR at Leeds Met University in 2005. She then went on to work for PR agencies. Her last role was as Head of Communications at Thomas Cook Airlines.

Since starting Surge, she has guided many teams through her course on Crisis Management, which covers reputation management, best practice when faced with a business crisis and pre-emptive plans for potential vulnerabilities.

“Don’t wait for the crisis to happen. When times are good, think about what could put you in hot water and prepare for that,” she says.

Effective communication in a crisis

Another key focus for Lorna is her work on internal and external communications for her clients, many of which have recognised the need to adapt their communications in response to the rising cost of living.

“It can feel tempting to communicate less during troubling times, but regular and transparent communication is even more crucial when times are tough. Trust is built through transparency, so be authentic in your communications, stay true to who you are and don’t change your purpose.”

Her recommendation for regular communication applies both to employees and to clients and customers. “Connect and communicate with your employees, your greatest asset. Research shows that feelings of stress and anxiety are on the up, and you should be mindful that many people will be looking at their employment options. Provide your team with information, resources, advice and support as best as you can. Listen to their needs and empower your managers to do the same,” she says.

On clients and customers, she says: “Think about your channels of communication and where your customers might be or how they might be feeling. For example, you may want to build out your social media strategy or use more case studies to provide reassurance when your customers are watching what they spend.”

Business banking with Starling

Lorna has set up an integration with online accountancy provider Xero through the Starling Marketplace, the section of the app that enables customers to connect to third-party products and services. “Starling is a really great addition to my business,” she says.

She also uses Spaces, the feature that enables customers to separate money from their main balance, to set money aside for tax or other savings goals. “It really works for me. I keep my main balance quite low and put most money into various Spaces, which each have a particular purpose. It makes saving more tangible.”

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