This unprecedented pandemic is a wake-up call for companies to carefully review the strategies, policies, and procedures in place to protect employees, customers, and operations. An important part of those policies and procedures includes how you communicate, both internally and externally.
By now, we've all received a countless number of emails from retailers, airlines, hotels, schools, businesses and pretty much any organization that interacts with consumers on a daily basis. Every one of them is trying to convey a sense of assurance that precautionary steps are being taken to protect the health and safety of everyone. We've done the same.
At Thread we'll continue to provide you, our trusted partners, with the best communications counsel and advice during this ever-changing time. We are closely monitoring guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and will use our blog and email communications to provide suggestions on how best to communicate or manage new information as it is released.
Some initial things to consider when thinking about communicating business information in relation to the current coronavirus pandemic:
Trust the ExpertsEnsure constituents that you defer to the public health department for protocols and recommendations based on your industry and that you are monitoring this information closely and you'll provide updates as information changes.
New recommendations to cancel/postpone any gathering of 50 or more individuals was posted on March 15th. Updated guidance from the CDC for event and meeting planners provides considerations for determining postponing and/or cancelling. As of yesterday, March 16th, the government advised avoiding groups of more than 10.
Develop a Plan for Service Changes/Closure(s)
Whether you are evaluating changes and/or closures on a case-by case basis, establishing new protocols or completely shutting your doors for a period of time, do your homework on the potential impact of your decision before you make any announcement. Make sure your plans and communications are well thought out and clear to everyone, staff and customers alike.If providing services in a different way, such as carry out or delivery or remote working opportunities, make sure that options for customers are clearly stated. Many restaurants and service locations are offering curbside pick up. One veterinarian office is offering staff to come to your car to retrieve your pet if you are uncomfortable coming into the office. The vet will then call you on your mobile to communicate any concerns or updates. Outside of the box thinking can greatly help in a time like this.
- Create an Emergency Contact List
Ensure a current list of emergency contacts is available for staff. Depending on the size of your organization you may also want to consider emergency contacts for vendors, customers, etc., as well as the local public health department, and other community resources. If decisions are made quickly make sure you are prepared to share information in real time and know who needs to be included in communications.
Stand Behind Your Decision
Trust your gut and err on the side of precaution. Members of your community will criticize you no matter what decision you make. Trust that you have done your homework and are making the best decision based on the information available to you at that time.
Allow Flexibility Based on Evolving Information
Information on the virus changes daily and sometimes hourly. Don't back yourself into a corner. Be prepared to make and communicate changes and adjustments as you learn more. Many of the local health departments are committing to making website updates at a specific time during the day, rather than whenever things change. You may consider timed updates each day, based on the impact. Constituents would then know to look to you each day at that time, rather than being disappointed with multiple check-ins and no new updates.
Create/Review a Communications Protocol
Review not only your external communications plans, but internal plans as well. Remind staff who is permitted to speak on the companies behalf to the media. Determine a process for sharing updates internally and externally.
Not every communication will garner media attention. Often times communication is strictly internal. However given the current sense of unease throughout the country, sharing as much information as possible is vitally important for your staff and for your organization.
If you need any assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out. Our teams are staying on top of the situation and the nuances for our many clients.
We have faith that we'll weather this event by sticking together and helping where and when it is needed. If you need us, please just reach out and connect.