Coronavirus Pandemic Business Takeaway: How Good is Your Communication Plan?

By Keenan-Nagle | March 19, 2020 | Category: News Strategy

Painful as it may be, the coronavirus experience has delivered some important lessons for businesses. Not the least of these is to have a well-framed emergency communications strategy in place and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Understand that no plan will be perfect. All will require on-the-fly content adaptation to the specific crisis circumstances.  So stay flexible on messaging. But it is vital to have the core tools and technology ready to roll out.  Your customers, co-workers and community have always counted on you being there for them…especially when their earth starts shaking a bit.

Timing is important. When a crisis hits the fan, there is no time for the usual meetings and rounds of approvals prior to production and dispatch. Being the first out with a meaningful message keeps you first in minds, hearts…and future decisions. Time may be money during normal times, but in a crisis: Time Is Trust.

Here are some quick tips from our K-N communications pros to help you shape an emergency communications plan:

–Get a SPECIAL ALERT digital header designed and ready.

Avoid screamy graphics or a cute name. Just a straightforward letterhead format that boldly announces itself with SPECIAL ALERT (or something simple like that) followed by your company name/logo, a date and then a brief  boldface headline on the topic. All the body copy with key points on your actions, recommendations, changes in service, etc. can follow.

 –It is no time to SELL.

Nobody likes anybody that exploits emergencies. This communication is about alternative service solutions, ways you can help, and being accessible to do so. Do it sensitively and the distinctions between you and the competition will be apparent enough. If your message smells the least bit “salesy” so will you.

 –Avoid “crystal ball” statements.

Sure, we all want the best outcomes for any serious challenge.  But don’t play Nostradamus.  Nobody knows how major crisis situations  will play out.  Avoid making predictions or forward-looking statements. Use qualified phrasing like “It is our sincere hope that…” or “As events continue to unfold…”

–Link to the recognized authorities.

When possible, your emergency alert communiqués may include links to the recognized authorities on the crisis at hand, i.e. the CDC for public health issues. They have the most current recommendations based upon best-practice information in their discipline. Share the intelligence.

 –How OFTEN do you dispatch ongoing Special Alerts?

Big question. That answer depends on the scope and frequency of changes as the circumstances evolve from two perspectives:

  1. Within your organization

Definitely DO report on any of the material changes within your own organization, especially when services are restored and/or alternative avenues to service or customer benefits are made available.

Definitely DO NOT confuse frequency of messaging with value. The info channels are clogged enough as it is.  After your initial communication, if you don’t have anything important to report, wait until you do.

  1. Outside your organization

Unless the national or regional happenings directly impact how your company’s specific products/services/presence will interface with lives—say for healthcare, public safety or financial relief—our advice is to let the news media keep that fire hose flowing. Save your input opportunities for when they will count.

Final note: There is no playbook for addressing all the “what ifs” of the unknown.  But there are logical preparation tools and techniques so that when the unpredictable does happen, your company is ready. If K-N can assist you in structuring your emergency communication strategy, contact us. Thanks and stay healthy!

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