Coronavirus

COMMUNICATION GUIDE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC

The worldwide coronavirus outbreak is a concerning cause for communication specialists, whether we are talking about the internal ones, the public relations departments of companies, or the external ones from the communication and public relations firms. The World Health Organization has issued a set of recommendations for communicating in the epidemic situation, which should be taken into account by all those involved in the transmission of public messages, especially public institutions and private companies. We all have to show responsibility and fairness in the messages we send, to provide accurate and complete information, in a temperate and professional tone, which will not create panic and a state of uncertainty for the population and the employees.

The image of a company can suffer greatly if it fails to have a coherent and professional attitude in a situation such as this related to coronavirus.

Tudor Communication proposes a mini-guide for internal and external communication, to make it easier for companies to pass over the coming period, to ensure a right image and to prevent communication crises.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

RECOMMENDS

INTERNAL COMMUNICATION

1 Present the situation as honestly and completely as possible, calmly and responsibly. Avoid messages that can create panic.

Panic is perhaps more dangerous than the epidemic itself. Keep calm, do not make impulsive decisions that will generate more chaos, appeal to business or communication consultants for help. Get your information only from reliable, official sources.

2 Be transparent in communicating your decisions. It is important that employees know that you are really thinking about them. This is what you can do:

  • Communicate closely with the team, in the same way you communicate with clients, partners, the press. The tone must be calm, balanced and convey safety. Inform them transparently of all the measures you take to ensure their safety in the workplace and to prevent the potential spread of the virus. Authorities recommend remote work. If you make this decision, prepare everything, both technically and from the communication point of view, the sooner the better. People need to know that their jobs are not in danger and they must feel safe to ask any questions without repercussions. If, on the contrary, you cannot do this, consider other additional protective measures for work and communicate them internally.
  • Communicate officially via email. This method does not exclude direct communication with employees, especially when you suspect that there are additional concerns.
  • Make sure you communicate your internal policies promptly, clearly and in a balanced manner. Make a clear plan with responsible people and deadlines. Moreover, you should communicate contextual information and policy motivation, so that employees can deepen their own understanding and be able to take the initiative in unexpected situations.

3 Crisis opportunities

  • 3.1. Try to detach yourself for a moment and analyze the situation. Even if the emotional factor comes first, try to estimate, with lucidity, the impact that Covid-19 has on the field in which you are activating. Remember that any crisis also brings opportunities that you would not have thought of if it hadn’t been for these difficult moments. In disruptive times, you need to be a leader or to quickly learn to become one.  Start thinking that this crisis is a valuable learning opportunity – both from a personal, but also from the company’s point of view. You can certainly find at least one solution.
  • 3.2. Take into consideration what areas are not affected by this situation and how you can use their advantages in your business. Such areas are:  online shopping, online education, public health investments, health insurance etc.
  • 3.3. Answer a few questions to help you put your thoughts in order and make the most rational decisions:
    • What are the challenges that you face through this epidemic?
    • What is the best and the worst case scenario possible?
    • What are the solutions needed and that could take your business to the next level?
  • 3.4. Depending on the size of the business, you should set up a crisis management unit that is responsible for taking care of the situation. The emotional factor is very strong during this period, so we recommend that you consider it, but do not act under the impulse of fears that come from all sides. You need external support. Think about what may go wrong and make a contingency plan (successions, layoffs, staff re-training, reorganization etc.). Consider the option of preparing employees to make decisions. Their involvement and preparation in order to take the initiative in unanticipated situations can be of real benefit.
  • 3.5. Carefully select information from official and multiple sources. Keep in mind that we are dealing with an information war in the first place. The ability to discern between fake news and real news is essential. Do not assume that information creates information. And bear în mind that your employees are just as connected and confused as you are. Therefore, periodically create a summary of information relevant to your field and discuss it with clients / collaborators / consultants.
  • 3.6. Talk to experts and check forecasts from different sources, especially when it comes to economics and finance specialists. Each crisis is unique and requires a specific approach. Think about the fact that next time you will already have the mechanism ready.
  • 3.7. Update the information daily and even several times a day. What is valid today, tomorrow may not have any coverage. Periodically reassess information and context. Get ready to contradict in the evening what looked like clear facts in the morning.
  • 3.8. Manage in these times dynamic and unpredictable challenges with resilience – the ability to survive and thrive in the most unpredictable, changing and unfavorable conditions. Be adaptable and strong. 
  • 3.9. In the case of blockages occurring in the supply chain, create alternative sources, implement innovative solutions and communicate the plans to all people and institutions involved.
  • 3.10. Follow the business forecast to manage unpredictable fluctuations. Implement quick reporting cycles so you understand how your business is affected, where mitigation is needed and how quickly your operations can recover. Subsequently, the markets will evaluate which companies have managed the challenge in the most efficient way.
  • 3.11 It is highly recommended to avoid managing the crisis in a one-dimensional way – as if it were exclusively a financial or logistical problem. Identify the unique element that describes you in crisis management.

EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION

The same rules apply for external communication. In addition, bear in mind that any request from the media should be handled responsibly and resolved as soon as possible.

1 Communicate with your competitors

Each industry, these days, faces specific challenges. The most affected by far are services, transport and tourism.

Because of the rapid evolution of the epidemic, the international authorities and those of each country did not have time to develop good practice guides for each industry separately. So, be inspired by the actions taken by colleagues in the industry, be supportive and share with them the ideas you have.

Think of the possibility that you can initiate and set partnerships with the competition, in order to create strong clusters. Transparent alliances can be of great help in times of distress. Isolation is not the best policy in times of crisis.

This period is not about securing or growing our business at any price, but about limiting the danger to which each of us is exposed.

2 Stay in touch with the authorities

Neither the authorities, not even the field specialists have all the recommendations for the way in which every industry should deal with crisis situations. If you do not know how to react in certain situations, get in touch with them and let them know what your company’s problems are. Keep in mind that they have more information than we can see in the public space and implement the solutions they offer you.

3 Unexpected solutions

  • Your business is part of a much broader system – with an industrial, economic and social component. All work together as a whole. Any collapse triggers other collapses. Think and act holistically. The first impulse is to act like a hunter, but history shows that neglecting or attacking the interests of others will create long-term mistrust. Instead, behave like a farmer, relying on the support given to customers, partners and the community you belong to. In difficult times, it is essential to develop healthy relationships and to build healthy, supportive and long-lasting trust systems. Don’t forget about the values ​​on which you founded the business, the cultural organization; in times of crisis, the first impulse is to forget about values. Even if it seems risky on the short term, the test of time will prove the opposite.
  • If you have looked at your business as a system from which you receive maximum optimization and efficiency, think about the possibility of reorienting it or rebuilding in terms of evolution and transformation. Such evolution-oriented businesses can flourish exactly in times of crisis.
  • Express your solidarity with the industry you belong to. Demonstrate solidarity with the business environment generally. Be a responsible citizen, consider yourself an active and proactive part of a global system. Supports others in the supply chain, local industry, local administration, community.
  • Consider how your business can contribute to global progress, regardless of industry. Find the common interests between acute social needs and what can develop your business unique and special for finding the solutions to these issues.
  • Think globally, even if the need for survival is most pressing. The results will be seen after the crisis has passed. The overall lesson of this crisis is to survive and thrive and to give before you gain.

COMMUNICATION CRISIS

There are situations when your company can reach the spotlight, whether you want it or not. Our recommandation is to choose when and how, and to take into consideration that in these crises every industry needs leaders and that one can be you.
We mention some cases in which you face a crisis situation triggered or not by an internal decision. We list, for information purposes, possible crisis situations related to coronavirus, specifying that the list is neither complete nor limiting.

1 What to do if one of your employees has been infected with Coronavirus

First of all, it is extremely important to transmit the information internally and to reassure the employees. Then you must comply with all the measures imposed by the authorities and communicate this publicly. It is also necessary that, at every request from the media, you respond urgently, within a reasonable time. Keep in mind that a miscommunication during these times can have devastating effects on the business. Customer confidence in crisis situations is extremely sensitive and can collapse to any wrong word. It is good to have an already established crisis mechanism, which will be easily set in motion. Who is responsible with what, what messages one communicates and until when, who makes the decisions and for how long, which are the channels, which are the main messages, to whom and for what you can call for consultancy and financial support. 

2 What to do în case of layoffs

There are already industries severely affected by the impact of the coronavirus epidemic. If you are in the situation of dismissing or cutting wages, make the decision transparently and with the assurance that things will return to normal when the situation allows it. Communicate internally and externally, with clear and transparent explanations regarding the criteria taken into account when making decisions and find future compensatory solutions for the people that have been affected by these measures. 

3 The crisis on deliveries / exports

Inform your partners and, if appropriate, also communicate publicly to avoid crisis situations, pointing out how much you expect the situation to last and what alternative solutions exist.

4 Interrupting the activity

Announce that, for the safety of the employees and of the whole company, you suspend the activity for a certain period of time. Keep in touch with the communication department, which continues to respond to requests, in order not to induce the idea that the company will go bankrupt.

Be aware that the current crisis is a preparation for what is to come. Agility is the paradigm in which any business must now run. Know that cash is king and people are gold. Whatever you will do in these moments will be remembered. Be safe!

Tudor Communication Team

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