By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC
Reopening after Covid-19 requires expert crisis communications on your part. Not because you have a crisis, but because this situation could rise to the level of a crisis. So today we share four tips as America reopens in phases.
As I write this, various states and communities in the United States are implementing various forms of reopening, after closures for Covid-19. This could go well or this could go badly for you, so proceed with caution.
Tip #1 Manage expectations
Things are not going back to normal. This is a transition. If you require face masks and gloves for either your employees or your customers, make sure the rules are clear and that you have procedures and policies in place to enforce those rules.
My expectation is that some of you may see fights or acts of violence between the rule-followers and the non-rule-followers.
Tip #2 Don’t make promises you can’t keep
In your communications with customers and employees, avoid making absolute statements, such as, “We guarantee the highest level of safety.” You can’t guarantee anything in a world where you cannot control all of the variables.
Instead, opt for statements that use the word “goal.” For example, “Our goal is to offer a clean and safe environment for all of our employees and customers.” The nuance of your wording matters.
Tip #3 Put people over profits
Consider if things go wrong as you reopen and you become the hub of the next cluster of Covid-19. Is it worth it?
Businesses that are not on stable ground financially are desperate to re-open, which can cause business owners to do what they think is best in the short-term rather what is best in the long-term. Some business owners will say, “I am reopening for people. My employees need money.”
Yes, but when we say people, it must be best for your employees, your customers and your community. If you re-open and infect customers or contribute to an outbreak in your community, you have failed to make the correct choice. The negative attention you will receive in the media will damage your reputation, revenue, and brand.
Furthermore, if you have a new cluster, will you be forced to shut down again? How long will you be shut down? Will you end up worse off than if you had proceeded down a different path?
Tip #4 A Final Thought
There is no one right answer that covers all types of businesses.
- Listen to experts.
- Seek advice from trusted advisors.
- Know the difference between a trusted advisor and someone who simply echoes what you believe, because you only want to hear from people who believe like you or who watch the same cable news channel as you.
- Don’t be persuaded by mob mentality, political leanings, or the pontifications of a profiteer on a cable news talk show.
- Lives are on the line.
- Profits are on the line.
- The long-term health of your business, your employees, and your customers are at stake.
Answer this as part of your decision making process:
If I reopen, and my actions result in the death of an employee or customer, will I be able to live with my decision and myself?
The burden is heavy. The consequences may be heavier.
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…”
More crisis communications articles: