By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC
The Coronavirus crisis is a perfect crisis communication case study that can encompass every one of the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications that we have focused on this year.
In Crisis Communications Step 1, we focused on your Vulnerability Assessment. We mentioned that a Vulnerability Assessment should be done at least once a quarter. The Coronavirus is a perfect example of a potential crisis that did not exist last quarter.
Based on your Vulnerability Assessment, you can determine if your Crisis Communication Plan written in Step 2 needs to be updated. Of particular interest with something like the Coronavirus, would be issues related to social media. If there was an outbreak, the comments on social media could be overwhelming.
The most important update will come in Step 3, which is your Pre-Written News Release statements. You should write pre-written statements that should include a statement of precautions that employees should take to stay healthy and safe, as well as a pre-written statement that you would use if a case of the Coronavirus occurred among your employees. You’ll want to pre-determine how much you would say, whether you would give names and updates on conditions, as well as how you would address fatalities if they happened.
Because an illness or death from Coronavirus would create a lot of media attention, you will want to hold a Coronavirus media training class for your spokespeople who might need to be your spokesperson(s). Media training is Step 4 in the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Remember to use your pre-written news release as a script for the media training news conference.
Finally, Step 5 is to hold a crisis communications drill. The Coronavirus crisis is an excellent drill scenario. It is very different than responding to something like a fire, explosion, or shooting. Because Coronavirus would involve issues related to HIPPA and employee confidentiality, you will be able to have some interesting policy discussions. I suspect you’ll have some interesting debates between your crisis communication team, your HR team, your executive leadership team, and your legal team. A drill lets you have those discussions now, rather than losing valuable time if a real crisis emerges.
Coronavirus is an opportunity knocking on your door. It is the kind of thing that will help a public relations professional get a seat at the table. Show your executive leaders that you are thinking ahead and thinking on their behalf.
Also, the Coronavirus has the ability to negatively affect an organization’s revenue, reputation and brand. Those are the precise things we aim to protect through effective crisis communications.
You have your marching orders. Get to work.
If you need to schedule a free strategy call or if you need ask about any of the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, please use this link to schedule a free 15 minute strategy call with me.
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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