A crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic demands frequent, thoughtful and strategic communication, and it starts with your most important audience: your own people.

Your employees will be your biggest champions, if you do right by them. But if you fail to communicate with your people in the right way, they won't bring their most productive selves to work or be good informal (and influential) spokespeople for your business. Plus, they're your people; you really should care about keeping open, transparent lines of communication with them, particularly during uncertain or challenging times.

Here are five internal communication tips to help you and your company -- and your people -- through a crisis.

1. Communicate internally first.

When communicating in a crisis, you want to communicate from the inside out. Start with keeping your own people informed. I've heard employees say they heard news about their company from the news. That's bad and no way to instill loyalty.

2. Communicate often.

Now is not the time to leave your employees guessing or in the dark. No news is definitely not good news. Think of what you would want to know and when. There will be hard questions on employees' minds. "Will there be layoffs?" You should answer honestly. If you don't know the answer, say so. But promise to be upfront and transparent -- and then follow through on that commitment.

3. Show--don't just tell.

It's simple; follow up your words with actions. You can't tell your employees their well-being is the most important thing and then require they work longer shifts or freeze their time off. You can't promise flexible schedules and then make it hard for team members to take you up on that so they can tend to personal or family matters. I saw a photo of nurses in New York interacting with therapy dogs while on a break from taking care of coronavirus patients. Now that's showing, not telling.  

4. Show up.

Communicate with your team in person or by video conference or phone versus email whenever possible. It's warmer. It shows you care. And tone is much clearer in person than in a written piece of communication.

5. Imagine yourself on the receiving end.

Final piece of advice. This is what it comes down to. Think of yourself as the audience. Before you send any internal communication, read it over and imagine you are the recipient. What is the message? Is it clear? Is the tone appropriate?

How would you feel after receiving this communication? How would you feel about your company? How might it inspire or reassure you in a crisis?