Meet the Media – CIPR event
September 17, 2019

5 steps to Communicating in a COVID crisis

Covid19-image

What strange times we’re in. What does it mean for businesses – and what steps can we take?

The initial reactions that I have seen, have been at two extremes. Some companies have been bombarding customers and former customers with heartfelt, but possibly hollow messages of help. “If there is anything you need…” “Just give us a call…” “We’re here for you…”

And some companies have said nothing, because they felt that there was too much noise and didn’t want to add to the overload.

We’re now four weeks in to the lockdown, and since the initial scary unreality has abated, it’s really the time to orchestrate your approach.

1 – Take The Lead

If you’ve not said anything to date, you really should do so now. Show up, lead by example – but make sure it comes from the top person in your organisation. 

Be creative in the way you do it- you have had time to see what has worked and what hasn’t. If you are still inundated with emails, send texts. Even, dare I say it, pick up the phone. We’re all zoomed out, but a phone call is always appreciated. 

Don’t just think about customers, but people inside your organisation – your team. Your suppliers. 

2 – Create a Plan

There’s no point in taking action without a plan. So think about all the scenarios – yes, we are where we are, but what are you going to do now? 

Think about your opportunities. Who are your stakeholders? How can you reach them – and most importantly,  what do they need to know right now? 

3 – Take Action

Once you’ve got your plan – take action. There is absolutely no point in being in stealth mode. If you don’t tell people of your plan, how will they know about it? 

Involve your team, manage the situation. Even if it’s not great news about your business, there are still things to say. You owe it to your customers, your staff, yourself. 

Tell your story; tell your plan.

4 – Communicate

It’s a fact that silence is rarely golden when a crisis is on, so don’t go to ground. Absolutely show you care, and use empathy – but now, more than ever, is the time to LISTEN to your stakeholders. Find out what they want and how things are for them. Don’t assume how the COVID 19 crisis is affecting them. 

I’m seeing a real mix of fortunes– some firms have machines flat out, manufacturing essentials for the NHS (even if that’s not their core business). Some logistics companies are super busy – some are painfully quiet. Some have temporarily shelved their businesses and furloughed staff; some are recruiting to cope with the additional interest.

Remember, this communication lark is not just about you. Find out the real picture.

5 – People Come First

More than ever, now is the time to be real. From my own contacts, there is an extremely low tolerance of blagging and fluff. 

Be Kind, Stay Home, Save Lives

I would always argue that being kind and helpful were the basic rules of business – and happily, most people seem to be in agreement.  

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