We are living in an intense and unprecedented time. The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is changing human interaction, business operations, and paralyzing the globe in a climate of uncertainty. Organizations are having to rapidly respond and change the way they communicate during this pandemic. I like to call it, “Contingency plans on the fly.”
“Business as usual” isn’t possible right now. Organizations need to shift from operations mode to crisis mode while communicating in a calm and consistent manner to guide their employees, stakeholders, and customers through this emergency. This is not a one and done communications plan.
At its core, crisis communication is about honesty, transparency, accountability, and consistency. More than ever, companies need a clear and deliberate communication strategy to maintain operations and build trust with their community. Successful communication strategies begin with employees, vendors, and stakeholders.
Now is the time for CEOs to communicate directly about the challenges their companies face and reassure employees and stakeholders about the steps they are taking to ensure workplace safety and business continuity. Trust me when I say “They want to hear directly from you!” Communicating your company’s plan to manage the crisis and mitigate the negative impact will not only reassure the public it establishes credibility.
In this uncertain time, silence is NOT golden. Be transparent, concise, and sympathetic. Share facts and updates, but do not downplay the realities facing your company and the world. Utilize all the social media outlets available to you. They are a lifeline between you and the public – calming fears, disseminating information, and supporting online activities that may help keep your business afloat.
Information about the COVID-19 is changing hourly, and sometimes answers are hard to find, even from experts and elected officials. Misinformation is spreading almost as quickly as the virus itself. Right now, business leaders need to communicate in a direct, timely, and honest manner. The key to navigating this crisis is to remain calm and flexible, understanding that you may have to change course multiple times.
On a personal note, I think this is the ideal time to look at how your organization can help the community you serve. How can you use your local platform or global reach to help those in need? Whether it is sponsoring a food drive, donating money or supplies to local organizations, providing resources so that students can distance learn, companies big and small can do their part to help communities through this crisis. It will not only resonate with stakeholders, but it is also the right thing to do.
We urge you to follow CDC guidelines and local government guidelines. Be smart, and stay healthy!