6 Crisis Communications Steps to Survive the Pandemic’s Second Wave
November 23, 2020
The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic never really ended, but we’re headed into a second wave. Data shows the number of COVID-19 cases are spiking across the U.S. and an increase in hospitalizations and deaths is sure to follow.
The pandemic is no different than any other crisis, and this second wave deserves a similar communications response.
Here are six thoughts to consider as U.S. coronavirus cases surge:
1. Avoid the Crisis
Seek expert advice to understand the facts and the science. There’s a lot of misinformation in the media, well intentioned or not. You can’t make a good business or operational decision based on incorrect information. This is the primary source of most “PR Crises.” Should you spend money to get plexiglass separators for your workers and customers? Or is that a waste of money? Should exposed employees be made to stay home for 14 days, or will 10 be enough? If you make decisions based on facts and science, you should be able to avoid many crises.
2. Explain What you Are Doing About COVID-19
Sometimes, like in a pandemic, you can do everything you can reasonably think of to prevent the problem, but the bad thing will still happen. An employee will still come down with a disease, customers will refuse to comply, a viral video will embarrass you, etc. If you have explained your procedures and protocols in advance, it will be easier to respond when the issue arises. You can fire the employee, ban a customer, or apologize. But you won’t be starting from ground zero.
3. Repeat Your Message
Just because you said it once, or posted a blog about it, or sent a tweet, it doesn’t mean anyone saw it, heard it, or understood it. Employees will fail to comply, customers won’t bother to pay attention, vendors and suppliers will be too busy to notice. You must make the message resonate and repetition will be helpful.
4. Engage Regularly
Talk to employees, customers and others about this topic specifically. Do not be afraid to take questions or ask for feedback. Even ask how they are feeling, and don’t just ask superficial questions. Demonstrate that you care by talking to people about what matters to them. Then listen to what they are really saying, and act.
5. Monitor Conversations
Once an issue occurs, you need to know it immediately. Often you can detect an issue early by watching and listening to the media, social media or other forums. The media moves too fast to only find out about problem once a tweet has 20k comments.
6. Respond Quickly
You can’t respond quickly if you aren’t set up to do so. Take the time to think about all the bad things that can happen, and what you’d do or say if it occurred. You can’t plan for everything. But, the universal truth in PR is that there are two kinds of companies: 1) those that have had a crisis and 2) those that will.
While these are just some general thoughts on crisis communications related to the pandemic, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.