Coronavirus Crisis / COVID-19

In this age of news now, the rise of the Coronavirus crisis/ Covid-19 has people around the world wondering how will it affect me and what can I do about it. The news and social media platforms have spread misinformation about what is safe and what is not, in one bizarre case costing Corona Beer sales as people are actually connecting the two. Now is the time for your business to become a leader. As a business leader, you have the opportunity to distinguish yourself and your organization as one that puts their people first.

Businesses can help get their employees through this Coronavirus crisis, but there are a few things that you have to get down first. As a business, you are only as good as the information that you are receiving and then disseminating, so make sure you are using the best sources and then telling people exactly where you got the information, to begin with. The latest news can be found here.

Step 1: Appoint a Response Team

You may already have a response team in place, but if you don’t set one up now! These are the folks that will be tasked with collecting and helping to decide what the business can do to assist the employees. Name the group Crisis Response Team, that way you can recall the team in the future if you need to. It might be easier to think of it as the Coronavirus Crisis Response Team, but that is small and you want to think bigger.

Functions to consider inside the team include an executive, human resources, finance, operations, communications and risk management. Keep the group manageable, you can always create subgroups if you need to do more than this one committee can achieve. This Response Team will lead your efforts and thus report to the CEO/President! Accept nothing less than reporting directly to the CEO.

At this point, you need to decide, do you have enough resources in house to manage the situation and if not, what resources you might need to continue business and what impacts a sick workforce might have. This is why you need all those organizational groups in one place, they will manage your resources, finances and set the goals for success.

Do you have:

  • Work from home equipment
    • Computers
    • VPNs
    • Video conferencing
  • Janitorial crews capable of doing a deep clean
  • Insurance agent
  • Cash flow

Think about the impact on your staff and thus the impact to your customers! How will you respond? This is the reputation of your business at stake. What are you going to do to protect it!

Step 2: Develop a Strategy and Brief your Team

What is your primary goal and how will you achieve it. “To keep our employees safe during this Coronavirus Crisis,” or something like that is a valid mission! Maybe, “To ensure a safe environment for our employees and customer success.” Set your short and long-term goals and analytics to see if things are working once the plan is put into play. It is essential that the whole team, company-wide is working together to ensure the best experience for the staff and thus the customers as well.

The discord and hate the can be generated during a time of fear is something that your company has probably never faced before, don’t dismiss it. Talk with the employees so that they know what they can expect from you as the leadership and then make sure you live up to your end!

Step 3: Identify and Address the Audiences

We have talked about your employees, and some other groups, but you have to stop and think about who you are trying to communicate with. You need to think about what they need to hear and you need to make sure you are talking to them in a way that they can understand.

Audiences:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Stockholders
  • Stakeholders
  • Elected Leaders
  • Vendors
  • Lenders

Step 4: Craft Your Message

You can have more than one message, but you need to make sure that each one is clear and direct. I suggest that you start with one about your safety being of utmost importance. It really needs to be true, without the people the assets, the capital, the customers have little to no value because you can’t take care of them. If the people who work for you feel the love and care, they will work and sing just how great you have been to them. If you are not up for the challenge, you are in for a hard and I mean hard crisis.

To be clear, you need to be open and honest with the employees, customers, stakeholders and those who depend on you. If you make a mistake, admit it, say what you are going to do to fix it and move forward. The crisis is the Coronavirus, unless you make it something stupid that you do instead.

Setup a meeting place for employees, stockholders, customers to get the latest information about what the company is doing. Make sure you segment the audiences so that they can each find what they need. Make sure that the messages are in concert with each other. You may have one message board in your employee portal, another within your customer portal and another on the media site of your website. Update the material regularly and tell readers when to check back for updates.

Remember to assign roles, if you don’t want your staff to speak to the media, remind them who you have assigned for that role. Give them contact information so that if for some reason they get contacted by the media, the staff can report that into the media team.

Step 5: Monitor the Situation

Someone needs to be watching television, reading websites, talking to employees, customers and your other audiences to understand if your messages are being heard and to see what they are saying in return. This is a conversation and if you are not listening you will end up hurting all the more, even though you had the best of intentions.

Step 6: Don’ts of the Coronavirus Crisis

This is a crisis that you likely had nothing to do with making, so don’t make it worse.

Speaking out: Do you really have something to gain by inserting yourself into the local, national or international discussion. If you can assist your vendors, competitors or others in the general market, great be kind and speak from a good place as you go forward. Do not speak with anger or sarcasm, it will come back to hurt you far more than I can explain here.

No Comment: We have gone over that idea recently, so please read more here. In short, don’t do it!

Timing: Timing means so much when you are handling a crisis. You need to be responsive to the needs of your audience, but you need to make sure your facts are straight when you do. So my best advice is to say what you can when you can, and then let people know when to expect more from you. Even if the next time you share something is the same as the last time, you are reassuring your audience that you are on top of it and that nothing has changed.

Step 7: Review and Learn

You will make mistakes along the way, stop during the process and review what has worked and what has not and learn from your mistakes. In a month, do a recap of what has happened and fix your mistakes and when this Covid-19 is the new Y2K make sure you have your list of lessons learned because there will be another crisis coming sometime down the road.

Additional Resources:

CDC Newsroom

How PR Can Respond to the Coronavirus Contagion

COVID 19: Confidently navigate through the coronavirus crisis

Beijing Weighs Chinese Alternative to WHO in Response to Coronavirus Public Relations Disaster

Google News on Corona Virus

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