Businesses around the world have been disrupted by COVID-19. It is essential that to develop a communications plan that supports all stakeholders – both internal and external to your organization. We recommend these seven tips to help you maintain support and communicate clearly.
1. Develop an Internal Team Focused on COVID-19 Communications
As a first step, create a cross-functional team within the organization which includes members from all departments. This team will act as a task force and be responsible for helping the organization understand what its current needs are, any threats to the business, and begin formulating a communications plan.
It’s important that the team represent all departments. This will ensure that 1) the needs of each department are identified, and 2) the messages being shared are consistent. This team should be the one and only source of communication and share the same talking points.
2. Stay Up-To-Date on COVID-19 Related Industry Updates
Develop a new daily habit of checking in on COVID-19 updates from credible sources. Misinformation is commonplace today. Reference these recommended accurate and reliable sources:
The World Health Organization (The WHO) Review daily bulletins and instructions to help deal with the virus. Consider reading their Q&A page for current updates on how COVID-19 spreads and how it is affecting people worldwide.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (U.S. CDC) The CDC has prepared interim guidance for businesses ad employers who plan and respond to COVID-19. The CDD updates this regularly as additional information becomes available.
3. Create a Contingency Plan
Train and promote employee safety procedures with posters, banners, intranet postings, etc. Display in common areas to remind staff how to prevent the spread of germs and practice social distancing. Consider any CDC guidelines and health directives that apply to businesses operating in your area.
Your organization may choose to implement a remote work policy to further decrease human-to-human contact. Evaluate all critical roles, then determine whether those employees can continue doing their jobs remotely. Be sure to have the necessary infrastructure in place to allow for remote work and that employees are equipped with devices to access the network remotely. Be sure to clearly articulate your work from home policy and expectations that should be followed.
4. Prepare & Develop A Communications Plan
Communications Tools: Have a communications platform in place to keep your stakeholders informed. Are new tools needed to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively? There are many ways to share information (online meetings, intranet updates, emails, videos, and phone calls). Be aware of all channels available to you the information to be distributed through each channel.
Brand Voice: Just like people, brands need to adjust their communications tone depending on the circumstance. Be thoughtful about your messaging and remember that now more than ever, people are looking for reassurance and empathy.
5. Develop an HR Plan
As a result of COVID-19, many businesses are adopting a work-from-home policy and in some cases, have reduced hours or laid off staff. Your HR and communications teams should communicate any new developments with employees on a regular basis. HR should distribute go-to resources to help share key information to help answer employee questions and concerns. In addition, these teams should review and approve all employee messaging before it is deployed.
6. Develop a Communications Plan Directed at your Employees
Create an internal communications plan and process so employees feel they know the impact of COVID-19 on your business. Make sure your communications align with the news of the day or week as well as with sources such as the CDC. Be honest and forthright in employee communications in order to maintain trust in your organization.
It’s imperative that your organization provide clear instructions about what to do if an employee suspects they have been exposed to COVID-19, and make sure all staff have been educated on a contingency plan. We recommend communication through channels such as flyers, posters, banners, or email.
7. Develop a Customer/Client Communications Process
Customers need to understand the impact of your relationship due to COVID-19. They likely have questions, and you should be prepared with answers. Inform customers that you have a plan that considers their safety, and understands their current situation. Provide reassurance that you have their best interests in mind, while following all CDC guidelines and health directives applicable in your area. Stay connected to customers without overwhelming them with communications. A few channels to consider include: company blog, website, social media, in-store signage, flyers, banners, posters, or email.
What happens Next?
This is the biggest question with no clear answer at this time. It is important your response team prepare for any and all situations. Monitor the effectiveness of your communications plan, adjusting and adding to it when necessary. Equally important is preparing for recovery from the pandemic. When things begin to stabilize, be prepared with a strategy in place to bring back business. Some ideas could include offering a promotion, advertising to the community, or sending a postcard. Starting to strategize now will make your business even more prepared and ready to handle what’s next. Contact us when you’re ready to get started. We’re always here for you.