As we watch the spread of the novel COVID-19 epidemic, it’s important for companies to prepare to protect employees, customers and operations. Here are five steps to develop your coronavirus crisis response:
1. Identify a plan to keep employees and customers/clients healthy
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released specific guidelines for prevention of COVID-19, and businesses should help encourage these practices through providing both education materials (signage in bathrooms for handwashing) and supplies (hand sanitizer and frequently disinfecting of public areas).
The World Health Organization has also released recommendations for travel restrictions. Many businesses are making travel optional for employees, while others – such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon – have implemented work-from-home mandates.
Your organization should carefully weigh what’s best for employees and structure, and keep in mind that what works for one business may not make sense for another.
2. Consider your statement’s hierarchy when communicating with employees
For any crisis communication, how you deliver your message can affect how employees process information. The following structure will help encourage calm and understanding among recipients:
- Start with how your organization is currently affected.
- Explain what protocols or plans are being put into effect and that there is a plan for further action.
- Include specifics on what can be communicated with customers.
- Explain what employees can do to help.
3. Communicate externally with your clients or customers
Focus first on the people and families affected by coronavirus, addressing operational and/or financial consequences secondarily. The amount of physical contact with customers is going to greatly influence how much and how detailed you need to be.
4. Avoid reporting the news
Events unfold quickly during disasters, and your role isn’t to update your team on every change. Instead, your communications should empower your employees to know what is needed to do their jobs. Be proactive, but keep your information and cadence reflective of what is actually important. Consider linking to reputable sources, such as the CDC and WHO for the latest updates on the epidemic.
5. Develop your crisis plan
Every business should have a detailed plan in case the worst occurs. Even if you don’t anticipate any employees will be infected, you should still have a plan for how your business will operate if they are.
A good crisis communications plan includes:
- Designated spokesperson
- Activation criteria
- Detailed action plan, along with trigger events
- Clear messaging for each audience
- Thorough contact list
Need help developing your crisis communication plan? Contact us today.