By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC
Coronavirus is spreading and if you are in public relations, emergency management, or business continuity, you need to be preparing and using your crisis communications tools.
You may be asking:
- Do I need a coronavirus crisis communications plan?
- How do I write a coronavirus crisis communications plan?
Those are the two questions I have been asked the most in the past week.
- Yes, you need a coronavirus crisis communications plan.
- Writing a crisis communications plan for coronavirus, at least for me, is the same as writing a crisis communications plan for any issue.
Coronavirus checks off every box:
- It is identified in your Vulnerability Assessment
- Your crisis communications plan should guide you through gathering information, confirming the information, then sharing the information.
- You should use pre-written news releases to manage the expectations of your stakeholders regarding how the virus is affecting your organization, your employees, and the people you serve.
- You should conduct media training for your spokespeople using the pre-written news releases, because if you are directly affected, the media will be on you fast.
- Now is an excellent time to hold an exercise or drill with coronavirus as the topic.
Managing Expectations as a Crisis Communications Strategy
- If your organization has no crisis communications plan, you are already far behind. I have a plan that you can put in place in one day. Reach out to me at 985-624-9976 if you want details.
- If your employer or your executives tell you that the company doesn’t need to do anything at this time, they are wrong. The best time to prepare for a crisis is on a clear sunny day, long before the crisis hits. However, human denial and corporate denial are strong. Failure to plan for coronavirus sends a powerful message about the degree of denial within your organization.
- If you do have a crisis communications plan, and if it is properly written, it should have consistent guidance and rules that universally work for every crisis.
- If you use pre-written news releases to address the variables of your crisis – which is what I advocate – then your pre-written news releases will be the main tool that needs customization.
- If you have no confirmed coronavirus cases, send a statement to all employees that outlines how your organization will be responding to this crisis. Give them instructions about any precautions they should take to protect their personal health. Outline what you’d like them to do if they feel ill. Inform them about any changes to your travel policy. You may also wish to send the same statement to your customers, depending upon your type of business.
- Next, develop a pre-written news release that addresses all the issues associated with a case actually being discovered in your workforce.
- You’ll want to write a statement that also addresses potential fatalities and long-term impact on your organization in the event there is an escalation of cases that affect your organization.
I’ve long defined a crisis as any event that affects an organization’s revenue, reputation and brand. As evidenced by the stock market, coronavirus checks all of the boxes.
Should you need to do this all quickly, I have some great turnkey options ready for you to use. Use this link to schedule a free, private call https://calendly.com/braud/15min
Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”
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