In the event of an emergency, quick communication is critical. That’s why all businesses should have a crisis communication plan in place. A crisis communication plan outlines the steps a business should take to communicate with all key stakeholders and customers in the event of an emergency.
To handle most emergency incidents, these plans outline the steps that small businesses should take within a short timeframe. However, some incidents may require long-term plans depending on the situation at hand and the severity of the emergency. Because of speculations that the COVID-19 outbreak may continue to affect businesses around the world over the coming months, organizations should consider developing long-term communications strategies to address their ability to weather this extended period of adversity while also communicating a hopeful vision for the future.
In this post, we’ll discuss how business owners should adjust their crisis communication strategies in the wake of COVID-19.
Share Your Long-Term Plan
If your current COVID-19 message focuses on short-term changes and policies, it’s time to address your long-term plan. You should communicate a combination of long-term goals and specific actions that your company will be taking to achieve these goals and keep your team safe. To accomplish this task, you should address the following questions:
- What permanent changes are you making to minimize your business’s operational risk and ensure employee safety?
- How will your company adapt its remote working policy moving forward? Is your business investing in any tools or technology to help employees work from home more effectively?
- Will you be altering your company’s policies on events and/or conferences?
- Will you be adjusting any HR policies or employee benefits because of the outbreak? How can you give your employees more confidence in the stability of their jobs?
- Is your company changing hiring policies? Will there be changes in the training process?
- Has COVID-19 led to any vulnerabilities in your supply chain? How will you address these vulnerabilities in the future?
- What are your business’s long-term goals? Are there any recent milestones that your business has achieved? Even small milestones and successes can provide a source of celebration and inspiration.
In these uncertain times, hearing leadership’s long-term plans and goals will give employees confidence and comfort.
Promote Two-Way Dialogue
The best way to stop rumors or ongoing uncertainty amongst stakeholders is through two-way dialogue. You should have one-on-one conversations with your team to understand what customers think about your small business emergency action plan and address their top questions and concerns. Some questions that you may find useful to ask include:
- What are your overall feelings on the impact of the pandemic on our company?
- What do you think about our response efforts to date? Is there anything that you think we could be doing better?
- Have our COVID-19 communications been informative and effective?
- What are you seeing in terms of industry best practices? Are there any companies either within or outside of our industry that you think are leading the way in terms of their COVID-19 response efforts? How are they innovating to respond to this crisis?
- How can our company and team better help you during this period of uncertainty?
Audit and Adjust Marketing Messages and Your Tone of Voice
As new information regarding COVID-19 becomes known, make sure that you evaluate any future marketing plans or promotions and ensure that your messages are in line with the current situation. For example, if you are a restaurant owner who is only planning on offering delivery and take-out orders for the next two months, make sure that your marketing messages are in line with this plan.
It’s also critical to have the correct tone of voice considering the serious nature of this crisis. Make sure that you are using a tone that is transparent and addresses the issues while showing empathy for those who are affected. Your leadership team should be aware of your tone of voice across all forms of communication, including informal communication such as social media posts.
Now is the time to plan your long-term COVID-19 communication strategy. Even though the duration of the crisis is unknown, it’s clear that the pandemic and the impact it has left will continue into the future, changing the world and the way that businesses operate. Take some time to invest in your communication planning so that your small business can become a leader for COVID-19 recovery.