Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, the Seattle area has become the epicenter of the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the U.S. While the human toll of this crisis is at the forefront of our minds and our communications are focused on helping ensure safety, the economic impacts cannot be ignored.
Businesses have been forced to dust off their crisis communication plans for internal and external communication in the wake of the increasing number of confirmed diagnoses, employee concerns, supply chain disruption, office closures and event cancellations.
At Communiqué, we have been working with our clients on their communications with key stakeholders, whether employees, students, customers, investors, health care providers or patients. This entails gathering critical details that inform business operation decisions, evaluating how to proceed with events and activities, and developing media statements.
We also continue to actively monitor the situation and provide information and recommendations to our clients, so their business decision making is well informed.
A recent Harvard Business Review article “Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis,” written by Martin Reeves, Nikolaus Lang and Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, offers useful guidance and initial reflections.
The article outlines “12 lessons for responding to unfolding events, communicating, and extracting and applying learnings.” We want to share a few of those lessons that we found most helpful. Below are a few excerpts from the article:
- “Update intelligence on a daily basis.
Events are unfolding with astounding speed, and the picture changes on a daily basis….More recently, a number of fast-growing epicenters of infection have sprung up beyond China, signaling a new phase and potentially necessitating new strategies of mitigation rather than containment.”
- “Don’t assume that information creates informedness.
In our connected world, employees have direct access to many sources of information. Leaders might reasonably conclude that there is so much information and commentary available externally that they don’t need to do anything additional. We have found, however, that creating and widely sharing a regularly updated summary of facts and implications is invaluable, so that time is not wasted debating what the facts are — or worse, making different assumptions about facts.”
- “Prepare for a changed world.
We should expect that the Covid-19 crisis will change our businesses and society in important ways. It is likely to fuel areas like online shopping, online education, and public health investments, for example. It is also likely to change how companies configure their supply chains and reinforce the trend away from dependence on few mega-factories.”
It’s clear from the developing coronavirus outbreak that businesses and their communication teams will need to actively monitor, be prepared to adapt and change, react but not overreact, while applying gained knowledge along the way.
As Reeves, Lang and Carlsson-Szlezak tell us, “Unanticipated twists and turns will be revealed with each news cycle, and we will only have a complete picture in retrospect.” This makes ongoing reflection to extract lessons a learned essential.
Given this, when this crisis has passed, we’ll work with our clients to consider what was learned and what changes need to be made to existing crisis plans to prepare for the future.
For more information and guidance around crisis communication consider the following:
This blog was originally published by our U.S. partner agency, Communique PR. You can find the original article on their blog here.