Communications in Relation to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Mar 24, 2020

Mar 24, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

The Coronavirus has already done immense damage to the health of many, both physically and financially. The lockdown that has occurred to curb the growth of the virus has left many small and large businesses working to stay afloat. The last pandemic was a century ago with the Spanish Flu, which ravaged and killed around 5 percent of the population, according to many estimates. The average North American worker has never seen the closing of nations and widespread travel restrictions in their lifetime. The ability to travel to some locations is available but when returning you are going to be put on a quarantine and are risking your personal health/the health of those you come into contact with. Crisis communication is important as staying efficient during these times for businesses and people working is imperative, suggest experts like Cheril Clarke. Being able to still provide customers with the best product or service possible is of the highest importance. Customers will remember those that still worked hard despite the world seemingly burning around them. Providing a quality experience for customers is important especially during a tough time for everyone.

Create a Consistent Brand Message, But Keep it Concise

The marketing and communications team have to create a brand message that aligns with previous campaigns. The message should be centered around the company’s dedication to the customer and local community. There is an overwhelming amount of news and information that people consume during a pandemic. A concise approach to the message will not only make it clear, but also easy to remember. The unprecedented nature of this pandemic is nothing short of terrifying for people worried about contracting the virus, as well as those wondering about the security of their job. Employees should not be wondering about things like the ability to work from home. Paychecks will also be a concern as many companies have had to cut hours of employees due to the virus outbreak. PTO should also be addressed as this can be a way to help lessen the financial blow that the crisis is causing. The person delivering messages to staff and clients must focus on doing this very carefully. Certain customers will want their account manager talking through next steps in a project, or an unexpected delay on an order. The management coming up with a collaborative message to staff and explanations for certain decisions that are being made can lessen concerns of staff. The content that is put out by a company or organization needs to be consistent in its message. Conflicting messages not only will confuse customers and the public, it can cause panic.

Social Media Managers Need to be Detail-Oriented

The pandemic has been thoroughly covered on a variety of platforms whether it is newspapers, TV, or social media. Social media posts are generated quickly, and reports are posted without a fact check being done. Sharing a fake piece of content can lead to unnecessary panic throughout an entire community, depending on its number of followers. Engaging with followers by answering questions can be a perfect way to generate a sense of calm. Leading the conversation can have quite a few people flocking to a company’s/organization’s social media pages for the latest local/national/world news. Keeping on top of the trending hashtags that are relevant can be a perfect way to stay at the top of search results. Being a brand providing a sense of calm will work wonders; especially, if a brand is struggling currently. The consumer is far more informed about how a brand has treated employees, so this is something that needs to be carefully managed. Allowing the consumer to know what policies have been put in place to help protect the employees can create good will from the public as well. If the company is not handling this well, a PR nightmare could arise; so, doing the right thing in a time of crisis is even more imperative.

Do Not Sensationalize and Update Only When New Information is Available

There have been quite a few updates with respect to the Coronavirus. Every tweak in the number of cases shouldn’t be covered. It becomes information overload. Huge jumps should be but cases going up by single digits in a large state is not what you want to drown people in content whether it is by social media, email, or on the company website. Discuss among internal staff whether a development needs to be covered or it is just a minor development. A state being locked down is a great example of relevant news to be reported as states are going to be locked down at a higher volume than ever before.

Customers and Employers are Scared: Acknowledge and Support Them Positive Assurance

The fears that the Coronavirus are numerous for those that want to be financially healthy and physically healthy after this is over. Being understanding with the fears of both customers and employees is important. Quelling these fears with the employees could be by staying open and allowing the work from home policies if possible. Customers are also worried for similar reasons so acknowledging this and helping them calm down should be the goal. Use words that will allow customers/employees to feel the message is full of empathy and compassion. Acknowledging feelings and hopeful language will work wonders when compared to a complex/confusing message. The last few weeks have seen quite a few corporate mistakes, much like when the Hobby Lobby CEO said that certain stores would remain open due to a vision his wife had from God. Wynn Resorts let employees know they will be paid, which was met with a good PR wave for the accommodation giant. The Whole Food’s CEO stated that people that had a death or medical complication in the family could receive donated PTO. This PTO would not be donated by the company, but rather by other employees themselves. The grocery giant was criticized for being insensitive, and having a lack of care for their employees as an overall brand. Every company will have a different set of customers and employees that they need to consider when addressing the Coronavirus. Reactive solutions can lose the faith of both customers and staff that they are valued so being proactive is essential.