As the events and details of the Coronavirus Outbreak continue to shift at an alarming rate, your business’ state of preparedness and proactive crisis communication efforts make the difference between corporate survival and loss of employees, customers, revenue, and reputation.
Proactive external communication in times of crises are an essential and absolutely critical organizational function for every size of business operating in any vertical and sector. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of small business companies and large corporations alike overlook—or just do not prioritize—the critical importance of professionally planning for all instances of crises for life-changing events such as the recent outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the devastating natural disaster emergency of the Nashville Tornado.
A leading authority on Crisis Communication, Planning, and Management, 1680PR’s Senior Communications Experts have put together the following tips to help any size of business, government organization, public event (festival, concert, conference, etc.), tourism department, restaurant, and more to take immediate action. If YOU need professional advice from our experts who do this every day, we invite you to contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION NOW!
Regardless of the size of your business, organizing a centralized team for Communication will build the necessary foundation for successful efforts. Effective distribution of shared and/or common responsibilities: tasks, gathering of relevant and up-to-date information, internal communications with shareholders / management, media interviews, public statements, etc. will streamline Communication efforts, while saving critical time. Most internal Marketing departments DO NOT have any experience or training in managing communications during crises of this magnitude (or at all) so it is important to focus on these basics:
- IDENTIFY CHANNELS FOR EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION
- How will you field official, Brand-centric communication to your customers, constituents, and the public? Will you utilize professional press releases, social media posts, live interviews, or other methods? Who will be responsible for drafting and executing the release of the messaging—to whom does this person or team report? Who is best equipped to speak publicly, if necessary (NOTE: 1680PR offers media training for executive leaders and public speakers)?
- IDENTIFY SHAREHOLDER / STAKEHOLDER / EMPLOYEE CONCERNS AND AGENDA
- Other than public safety being of the utmost importance, are there other concerns regarding the business: maintaining customer confidence; addressing criticism or negative perception / press; potential economic threat; company survival; managing public events, etc.?
- What are your employees’ concerns / issues?
- IDENTIFY CUSTOMER / PUBLIC CONCERNS AND BEHAVIOR
- How has your company already addressed the Coronavirus situation? How?
- Are you reactive in real-time? What are the general points being raised by your customers and how are they communicating (Facebook, twitter, or other social media posts; email, phone call, personal interaction with your employed staff; etc.)?
These base initiatives culminate at Ground Zero to reveal the following 2 things (at least):
- What is your company’s concern or threat to the business: economic loss, reputation management, mitigating risk, etc.?
- What will your company do about it?
Our goal with this blog post is to provide a base from which anyone can begin to take control of their company’s brand and maintain effective relations with the public. While dealing with the many moving parts of a crisis, you will probably feel overwhelmed or particularly challenged in coordinating a Crisis Communication Plan, so we encourage you to CONTACT US FOR A FREE CONSULTATION!
TIPS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
People around the world are in a state of panic and fear of the unknown about the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic. As every hour passes, new information and statistics continue to spread like wildfire throughout the media and social media landscape so chances are YOUR CUSTOMERS are already getting updates from other places than YOU. To maintain control of your company’s brand and reputation it is critical to actively address the existing, shifting, and potential concerns of your customers (the public) in a professional, timely, and compassionate manner. Here are some of our best tips and suggestions that may be immediately implemented for most businesses addressing the Coronavirus:
KNOW YOUR COMPANY
Work with your company’s shareholders and stakeholders to assess concerns and potential threats to the business. Ask the hard questions and be prepared to act according to the answers:
- In addition to the health and safety of your employees and customers, what issues are of an immediate concern for the company—Economic, Damage to Reputation, Supply Chain, etc.? Are there other risks to be managed, as well—insurance risk, legal, etc.?
- About what are your customers concerned: contracting the virus at your place of business, interruption of your service or shutdown, etc.?
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
Identify the audiences to whom you are talking / communicating (if your company has a Marketing team, this data should be readily available).
- Take a pulse. What are your customers saying? What are their concerns?
- What do they like about your company? Leverage your company’s strengths and brand experience recognition—let your customers know that you will continue to provide what they expect to receive (if possible).
Use this data to assess what needs to be addressed and how best to do it.
Your customers are waiting to hear from you. The longer it takes to connect with them, the harder it becomes for your company to take control of its own brand messaging and identity during the chaos and uncertainty spurred by the Coronavirus Outbreak—meaning others can form opinions and cast doubts about the integrity of your company. Proactive and timely communication from your company is crucial to maintain customer engagement and confidence in your company.
- Having previously surveyed which communication channels (press release, email, live interview, social media, website update, etc.) through which you will address your customers, ensure that your company’s leadership has arrived at a consensus about the message being prepared and have authorized its release.
- Ensure that the previously identified person(s) responsible for official Communication are best prepared for customer / public response to the actions your company will take: general questions and customer concerns; press inquiries; etc.
SAMPLE RELEASE — ADDRESSING CUSTOMER CONCERNS OF CORONAVIRUS
INTRODUCTION (PURPOSE OF COMMUNICATION AND MANAGE CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS):
We want to share what (COMPANY) is doing to prepare for the potential spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and what steps we will take in the event of confirmed cases in our cities and places of operation for our business. As the dynamics of the outbreak continue to shift at a rapid pace, we will update our plans as more information becomes available.
WHAT YOUR COMPANY IS DOING:
(COMPANY) cares about our customers and the community in which we are proud to serve and take your health and safety seriously. We are closely monitoring CDC updates, in addition to those of our local agencies, to best adjust our plans and preparedness.
According to guidance from the CDC on how to prevent the spread of the virus, we have increased the amount of soap and alcohol-based disinfectants available to our staff and customers throughout our (PLACES OF BUSINESS, LOCATION, RESTAURANT, OFFICE, EVENT VENUE, ETC.). We continue to urge those who are feeling sick and / or have traveled to an area of outbreak in the last two weeks to seek assistance from their health care professionals and take the recommended precautions when interacting with our staff and others in our community.
ADDRESS / EXPLAIN ANY CHANGES IN DAILY OPERATIONS:
While (COMPANY) has always taken great pride in providing a clean and healthy environment, we are taking extra precautions and steps to disinfect all common areas daily. In accordance with other organizations and government agencies, our staff has also adopted a “no-handshake” protocol and other social distancing measures; however, customers will always receive the same courteous attention we’ve always provided.
As we continue to monitor the progress toward containment of the Coronavirus and receive guidance from the CDC and our local agencies, we welcome our customers to visit our website and official social media accounts for any news and updates regarding our services and operations.
- Be vigilant. Monitor the Communication channels you’ve implemented for response.
- Measure the activity and success of your Communication campaign. Analyze data for what went well and on what may be improved.
- Provide consistent and timely updates to your audience(s).
- Make time to pursue creating a comprehensive, professionally crafted Crisis Communication Plan to mitigate risk for future situations.
There are a great deal of moving parts combined with expert strategies that are necessary to best prepare and execute effective Crisis Communication plans for situations as dire as the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Outbreak. The need to make critical decisions will surely arise—and may have already done so in your company by the time you read this: closing of places of business, cancelling events (such as the great SXSW 2020 Conference, Bonnaroo, political rallies, etc.), service provider and government shutdowns, budget cuts, employee layoffs, and more.
OVERWHELMED AND NEED FULL-SERVICE CRISIS COMMUNICATION SERVICES ASAP?
A national Public Relations agency with a particular emphasis on Brand-centric Crisis Communications, 1680PR provides insightful, effective communications counsel to Global Brands, Native American tribes and enterprises, Law Firms and Legal professionals, US Presidential Candidates, State Governors and Cabinets, international companies, Fortune 500s, Feature Film studios and Entertainment executives, and many other industries.
- CRISIS COMMUNICATION — Comprehensive Planning, Management, and Response (Most Corporate Insurance Policies COVER the full suite of 1680PR’s Crisis Communication services.)
- SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING / MANAGEMENT
- MEDIA TRAINING — Prepare Executive Leaders and Key Staff for public speaking and press interviews
- RISK ASSESSMENT — Expert Consultation to Insurance Providers and Legal Counsel
- PRESS RELEASES
- MEDIA OUTREACH
- OUTSOURCED PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER (PIO) SERVICES
- PRESS CONFERENCE / EVENT MANAGEMENT
ACTUALLY, OTHER PUBLIC RELATIONS AGENCIES ASK
1680PR’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT EXPERTS FOR HELP, TOO.
(because our Senior Consultant literally wrote the books on Crisis Communication)
Dr. W. Timothy Coombs — Crisis Communication Consultant, 1680PR
The preeminent authority on modern Crisis Communication, Dr. W. Timothy Coombs’ groundbreaking Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) has been globally adopted as a guiding framework for planning, response, and managing crises communications. A cornerstone of 1680PR’s Crisis Communication Team, his seminal body of publications are the leading resources for Crisis Communication world wide, including the award-winning book, Ongoing Crisis Communication, and The Handbook of Crisis Communication.
In addition to his thought leadership he throughout the United States, Dr. Coombs has provided crisis training in Belgium, Sweden, Estonia, Norway, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, and China. His achievements and awards of note include the Jackson, Jackson & Wagner Behavioral Science Prize from the Public Relations Society of America; the Pathfinder Award from the Institute of Public Relations (in recognition of his crisis research contributions to the field and to the practice of Public Relations); Fulbright Scholar in Estonia; NEMO Professor at Lund University, Helsingborg Campus; a featured lecture at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China; and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Business Communication at Aarhus University.
A sought-after speaking talent, 1680PR consultant, and academic luminary, Dr. Coombs maintains an active schedule as the George T. and Gladys H. Abell Professor in Liberal Arts in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University, while serving as Editor for Corporate Communication: An International Journal.
Ken Lingad — Senior Communications Strategist for Global Brands and Native American Tribes / Enterprises, 1680PR
1680PR’s Chief Strategist and Management Consultant for Global Brands, Ken Lingad is a recognized authority on Business Strategy, modern Marketing, and Public Relations for Native American Tribes, Sovereign Governments, and Business Enterprises. The cornerstone of 1680PR’s brain trust, Lingad’s Management Consultant Team has led some of the biggest brands on the planet.
An enrolled member of the Indian Pueblo of Isleta, Ken Lingad brings over two decades of Public Relations thought leadership and Business Strategy experience in Indian Country’s sovereign-nation dynamics to 1680PR, providing trusted direction to State Indian Affairs agencies, Indian Tribes, Tribal Leaders and Business Committees, Gaming and other Business Enterprises, and non-Indian interests alike.
A sought-after Intellectual Resource and Transformation Leader for a diverse scope of industries: Multinational Corporations; Native American Tribes / Enterprises; State Governments; Private Equity Ventures; Industrial / Commercial Construction; Oil and Gas, EPCs; Petrochemical; Healthcare; Indian Health Service (IHS); Pharmaceutical; Nanomaterials; IoT and Mobile Tech; Luxury Hospitality and Tourism; Feature Film, TV, and Music Entertainment; and more, Lingad’s hallmark mix of strategic vision and modern business acumen helps lead Brands into the future.
GET IN TOUCH
Operators are standing by (not really, but we thought we’d lighten up things a bit here because this is pretty intense subject matter for most people that don’t do what we do) so let’s discuss how we may best protect YOUR corporate brand reputation and shareholder interests—before it is too late.