The current COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantines have thrown us for a loop and sent most business owners into a tailspin. From U.S. stocks dropping to businesses suddenly switching gears to best fit the needs of their customers and employees, it is clear that many of us were unprepared for this crisis.
In fast-moving and unpredictable situations such as the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to be transparent and communicate early and often with your employees and customers. By showing resilience during a crisis, your business can maintain and strengthen its reputation. We’ve put together some crisis communication tips to help your small business continue to thrive during these uncertain times.
Create a Crisis Communication Team
Ideally, businesses should have contingency and crisis communications plans well ahead of time before a crisis affects their business.
Your crisis communication team should include members of your leadership team, members from your communications and social media departments, and human resources, among other roles. Team members are assigned specific roles, such as contacting employees or connecting and fielding media requests from the local news outlets.
This core group of people is there to be the main source of information during a crisis, so it is important for them to meet regularly to monitor the situation and agree on the messaging coming from your business or organization.
Rely On Public Sources
Finding facts in the age of misinformation can be difficult, and that is why we recommend that our clients rely on the latest news from public sources such as the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as their local government figures and industry groups.
Luckily, most press conferences are live-streamed, and it is easy to catch the latest news and updates from our leaders. Do not gather news from unverified sources such as the recent hoaxes circulating on social media about a government shutdown.
Communicate With Your Employees
Making sure your employees have reliable and trustworthy information amidst the flood of news alerts, emails, and social media feeds is critical. Your employees are your ambassadors, and it is important to be transparent with them, explaining what you do know, what you don’t know, and where your sources of information came from. Always assume that any type of communication you have with your employees will be made public.
Keep the lines of communication flowing. When you leave your employees in the dark, you are leaving room for rumors, confusion, or for an employee to air their grievances online or with a reporter, damaging your reputation. Put their minds at ease and share information with them as you receive it.
Be Transparent With Customers
Your livelihood depends on your loyal customers. During a crisis, it is important to let your existing and potential customers know what your plan of action is. Leverage your social media channels and newsletter subscriptions to update your audience with information such as new safety procedures and precautions, business hour updates, and services.
Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve seen businesses make decisions they wouldn’t normally make in order to keep their customers, such as DoorDash eliminating and reducing commission fees for restaurants, major airlines waiving fees for cancellations, and restaurants across the country pushing no-contact curbside and take-out options.
Having a good relationship with the local media and influencers is important during these times because they can help get your message across to their audiences (potential customers!). As an example, our clients were included in restaurant round-ups on TastyChomps and Bungalower, among others, with information on restaurants offering curbside pick-up and delivery options.
Offer a Helping Hand
A crisis such as the current coronavirus outbreak affects many industries and individuals. If your business or organization is able to, find ways to help the members of your community, and in turn, create potential customers down the line.
On a larger scale, we’ve seen companies such as Walt Disney World donating excess food from their theme parks, hotels, and restaurants to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Companies like Comcast, PG&E, AT&T, Hyundai and Duke Energy are among the businesses giving people a break, in one way or another. On a smaller scale, restaurants have rallied around service industry workers offering them discounts on pick-up and delivery, libraries are live-streaming story time to aid parents and children in their cabin fever, and performers are getting together for telethons to raise money for artists impacted by the outbreak.
We understand that times are tough, important decisions have to be made, and there is a fear of the unknown, but during these times, we recommend developing a recovery strategy during the crisis. This is the time to rely on your organization’s values and strengths to fuel recovery and share your story.