How you respond to a crisis and the messages you communicate during and after the crisis can positively or negatively affect your image or that of your company forever.
When a crisis arises with little time to prepare, such as with the coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s important to quickly assess the situation, identify all the audiences you need to address, and decide what information, assurances, and plans need to be shared with each.
Your audiences or stakeholders can include everyone from employees to shareholders, to customers and vendors, and people in the geographic areas where you do business. Your message to each audience should be tailored to address their questions, concerns, and needs.
A single blanket statement probably won’t be enough.
When working with clients on reactive and proactive crisis communication strategy, message development and training, we consider the emotional state of each audience. Effective crisis communication includes the facts that people need, a clear plan, and a tone that lets them know that you understand what they are going through.
Test your crisis-response protocol.
If you don’t have a crisis-response protocol in place we can help you develop one, possibly, in conjunction with your legal and medical/health advisory teams. It is vitally important that every person and piece of technology involved in crisis-response is tested, ideally before there is an escalation of the situation. It’s also important to test for leaks by employees who should not be talking to the media as part of this process.
Your crisis communication planning should continue after the crisis is over.
There will be a recovery period during which many people will want assurances that it is safe to buy your product, use your service, or resume normal activities. In the case of COVID-19, take the lessons learned about the need for improved hygiene practices that apply to your business or industry as an opportunity to deliver a better product or service. Then, tell each of your audiences how your improved practices will make it safer to do business with you and, for investors or shareholders, how this can regain customer confidence.
The right crisis communication strategy, messaging, and training can help you avoid a multitude of problems and can position you for a better future.