As we continue to learn more about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and put social distancing into full effect, you may be wondering how to respond to the crisis. From travel bans to recent closings, one thing is for sure – it's not business as usual. So, what steps should you take?
While you work to put safety measures into place, such as requiring staff to work remotely, it is crucial to keep your stakeholders engaged throughout the process. It's time to create a Crisis Communication Plan if you don't have one already. At this point, we're past the "pre-crisis" part of a typical crisis communication plan. However, below are some steps that you can take now to address COVID-19.
Identify A Crisis Communications Team
Build a Crisis Communications team to engage stakeholders and establish roles and responsibilities for each team member. Be sure to set clear expectations that communication will be frequent and clear. A crisis like the Coronavirus Pandemic involves many different departments within the company. Meet daily with your crisis response to ensure there are no gaps. Transparency is key.
Identify and Train Spokespersons
Enlist a PR representative or someone who speaks with authority and is a clear communicator — especially during stressful situations.
Remember to be honest and open in all communication. During a time of panic, it is important to build trust and maintain transparency. Stick to the facts and what you know at this time.
Alert your social media team to be proactive in communicating any challenges and the impact they have. Set up real-time monitoring of social media activity and always rely on facts when responding.
There's Still Time to Get Ahead of the Crisis
First and foremost, as you think about how to communicate with your stakeholders, don't forget to keep employees informed.
Establish a notification and monitoring system for internal and external stakeholders. Develop a holding statement – the initial statement designed to help control messaging to the public. A holding statement should state the facts of the situation and let people know that you are actively taking measures to address the situation.
Create a list of FAQs and update it daily. Share these FAQs across every communication channel from your website to social media. Be transparent and open with your messaging.
Plan ahead for the worst-case scenario. Things will typically get worse before getting better. Your crisis communications team should already consist of HR and Legal, but be sure to have conversations with both on possible liability and threats. These conversations may help your company improve current plans in place.
As we are navigating through uncertain times, this may be a great time to think ahead about product development, customer service protocols, company events, and risk assessments. Make the most of this time, it may put your company in a better position going forward.
While you may still feel like you're late to the parade, there's still time to get ahead of the situation. As we navigate through this new normal, let people know that we are all in this together.