The coronavirus outbreak has put all of us into uncharted territory. The impacts to our health and our economy is unnerving and it looks like it will not be easing up anytime soon. It’s time to get out in front of your customers and your employees.
It is also time to cut back on non-essential communications on your social profiles. We will be turning off the scheduled posts for our clients and it’s time to consider temporarily suspending any social marketing ads. My team is still seeing a lot of “set and forget” posts running from brands and, though this isn’t obviously offensive, they do look oddly tone-deaf showing up between virus news and updates.
We have scoured the messages coming into us and prepared a list of resources we think will be helpful to our clients.
If you haven't started, it's time. now.
We are beyond the point in time we could put our heads in the sand and hope that COVID-19 will magically go away. It hasn’t and we need to face it head on. In fact, pretending that it is business as usual could have serious consequences and long-lasting impact.
Many of your customers and employees are already overwhelmed with fear, panic, and anxiety. Keep the lines of communication open with your customers and employees. Our clients are a large and small business across the country so we are providing resources and advice that should apply to all of you.
your message to employees
If you haven’t officially communicated to your employees about coronavirus, start today. Keep your messages simple, direct and irrefutable.
- Communicate electronically. Utilize the electronic tools you already have in place to share information about the outbreak (email, intranet, social media, texting, voicemails, etc.). Why? Now is not the time to try a new communication tool. We have helped all of our customers establish the most basic tools their business has determined it needs to communicate to employees and customers. It’s important your employees refer to these outlets for the latest information. While we certainly aren’t there yet, there may be a time when face to face communication isn’t an option. It’s also a great opportunity for you to test those systems.
- Reassure. You need to reassure your employees that their safety is a priority. Say it, and take steps to show it. Make sure your hand sanitizer stations are full, your IT and phone systems can handle added remote traffic, and ensure your work from home policies are updated. Listen to and respond to employee questions and concerns, and make sure you have a mechanism for their feedback.
- Be Transparent. Tell employees what you are doing to ensure business continuity and their safety. From monitoring the situation to activating a response team to cleaning the office more frequently – whatever steps you are taking, however minor they may seem, share them with employees.
- Share Facts. Don’t share media stories or rumors with your teams. Instead, refer them to official government resources, such as OSHA, CDC and WHO.
- Give Direction. Tell employees what they can do to help. Have them test their remote connections, take their laptops home each night, practice call forwarding, etc. Help them understand their role in protecting themselves and their co-workers. Feelings of helplessness will drive panic in any organization.
- Repeat. Communicate regularly with your teams about your ongoing efforts. Initiate daily – or at least weekly – updates.
While hand washing is the best defense against spread of the virus right now, effective communication is the best defense against spread of fear in the workplace.
Let us know how we can support you with your communication efforts.
Your Message to Customers
It is critical we take a proactive stance on communications to your customers during a crisis. The last thing you or your business needs during what is already a very difficult time is for your customers to express their frustrations in a public format such as your social profiles.
In light of this, here are a few steps you can take now to avoid making a bad situation worse.
- Assemble your crisis communications team, these include your executive team, HR, IT, operations, legal and the Proxi team as your external communications/PR consultants. This group is responsible for executing your crisis communications plan and should be meeting often to craft and review policies and messaging, and evaluate the quickly changing news about the virus.
- Gather as much information as you can from reliable sources We have compiled some helpful links at the bottom of this page.
- Be honest and transparent. Share your messages to customers early and often through email, text messaging, social media, and phone calls.
- Keep the messaging as simple and easy to understand as possible. As we receive more scientific data that explains who is at risk and how to survive coronavirus, the technical information may be useful to doctors but don’t forget to break it down into terms your employees and customers can understand.
- Respond quickly. Your customers will likely reach out with questions and concerns. It’s important that you have consistent and thoughtful responses to their concerns and that you respond as quickly as possible. This is a quickly evolving crisis so be prepared to update information frequently.
- Monitor the news and social media for information and mentions of your company and others in your industry. Check out your industry’s professional associations and groups to see what guidance they are putting out.
- Try to remain calm, vigilant, pro-active and empathetic.
This is NOT the time for American businesses to retreat. We always bounce back and it won’t be long before we are finding work arounds to our current business challenges in a new almost normal. We WILL get through this together.
- Is it time to trim back non-essential social posting? YES
- WSJ published a special guide focusing on COVID-19 for subscribers.
- FTC warns of ongoing scans using coronavirus as bait
- Communicating about coronavirus disease – lessons from ebola and other emergencies
- CDC , OSHA and WHO resource pages for coronavirus
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace
- EEOC – Pandemic Flu and the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Employment Law Resources
- Comprehensive and Updated FAQs for Employers about COVID-19
- SHRM Remote Work Resources
- Our attorney, Phelps Dunbar, has provided these COVID-19 resources to their clients