Crisis preparedness: communicating through the COVID-19 challenge

We’re living through unprecedented times with the continued threat of COVID-19 and our responses to it are paramount in surmounting the challenge it poses.

While much of the official advice, quite rightly, has been focused on public health messages, the business community is starting to feel the impact as confidence wanes, events get cancelled, corporate meetings and travel are restricted and companies go into crisis-preparedness mode.

One of the key areas of our work is in issues management or, for serious threats or challenges, more commonly referred to as crisis handling.

During periods of instability its vital organisations are firm, clear and consistent in their decision-making.

Business continuity strategies must be underpinned by robust and open messaging. Here’s a few things to consider if you are still in the throes of planning your response:

  1. Put a team in place – sometimes referred to as the CMT (Crisis Management Team) or similar. You should have a select group of experienced personnel representing a range of different business functions led by a senior organisation representative.
  2. Create clear reporting lines – assign specific roles, responsibilities and a protocol for the approval of all statements.
  3. Review your key stakeholder audiences (internal and external). Statements should be drafted which speak clearly to your audience, address their concerns and answer potential questions.
  4. Be approachable – staff and customers may have additional questions, so be prepared to answer these and then share this to wider groups.
  5. Be flexible and responsive – circumstances change during a period of crisis. The situation you face should be reviewed regularly and responses altered and communicated as appropriate.
  6. Review the likely business impact and put measures in place to mitigate impact. The Budget. 11 March, has offered some short-term measures such as reclaiming of SSP for staff sickness for the first 14 days, access to business interruption loans and rate relief for some retail, leisure and hospitality business which are being some of the hardest hit.
  7. Consider pausing ‘business-as-usual’ messages – consumers and customers do not respond well to the latest money off offer or new advertising campaign at times like these – and it won’t have the desired impact. You can restart when the time is right.
  8. Keep clear and organised records. It’s easy to let your usual processes slide – but in the event there is a debrief post-issue or if you or someone else is off sick and needs to take over your role.
  9. Don’t panic! As hard as it can be to see the end in sight when you are handling a major issue – it will eventually pass.
  10. Once your initial responses are formulated don’t wait until after the issue has passed to consider disaster recovery planning – that needs to start sooner rather than later so when the critical time has passed you can return to business as usual as quickly as possible.

For further advice on what you need to do to support your business please contact: /  + 44 (0)117 925 1358