Posted October 19, 2020

Business Management: COVID-19 communication

The fallout from the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19) can be very unsettling and has created many challenges for businesses.

By Matt Sonnhalter

In times of crisis, epidemic driven or by other event or factor, it’s imperative to maintain a calm, collected brand voice and keep the channels of communication open with customers, team members and stakeholders.

Here are five tips for effective communications during the COVID-19 crisis:

1. Form a communications team
Have representatives from every aspect of your business – C-suite, marketing, human resources, operations, sales, legal, service and other groups – to assure you receive different perspectives of how the crisis is affecting your operation. This team can vary in size based on the size of your company and should include a chain of command. Appoint one or two official spokespersons from the team that will be the main points of contact for your organization.

At least in the short term, the team should meet at a bare minimum of once a day. As the situation fluctuates, your team should expect to meet sometimes multiple times per day.

2. Establish a plan
As a team, assess the situation and determine the messaging as it pertains to your business. Prioritize the audiences that require communications; your first audience to address should be your employees.

They need to be reassured of any concerns that they may have. Will the business stay open? What if an employee tests positive?

Customers will have questions as well. Will there be product shortage? Will customer service be in place to help them if needed? The media may have questions. Will the facility stay open? Are any employees infected? As an organization, you may already have a crisis plan; dust it off and update to reflect the current pandemic situation.

3. Be proactive and over-communicate
The COVID-19 crisis is a fluid situation and is predicted to go on for weeks, if not months, so there is no “waiting to see what happens next” before communicating with your audiences. If you are continually providing timely updates, your audiences are going to feel more comfortable and calmer about the pandemic situation.

Err on the side of over-communication, but if you don’t have any new updates, don’t send out a communication. Let updates in the situation dictate the necessity for your communication.

4. Consistent messaging
Make sure your messaging is consistent and matches your brand. While the communication vehicles (e-mail, blog post, website, memo, media statement, social media posts) may vary, the facts should be consistent from one audience to another.

Use the communication vehicles that your audience is accustomed to receiving from you. Ensure the messaging is targeted to the needs of the individual audiences and communicate in a tone that is calm and positive.

5. Plan for the what-ifs
Anticipating the “what-ifs” positions your organization to avoid rumors or misinformation that often travel faster than the facts. Consider developing an FAQ document with questions your customers will ask and continue communicating even after things return to normal.

Above all, stay calm. While it is often impossible to know what the future holds in times of crisis, having a clear, concise plan and messaging in place will help mitigate confusion, misinformation and other factors that can bring unnecessary stress to your team and customers. Monitor the situation as closely as you can and be sure to frequently update this messaging to reflect the latest news regarding the outbreak.

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2020 issue of Pro Contractor Rentals magazine. © 2020 Urbain Communications LLC. All rights reserved.