Covid-19 has already taken a toll on everything from annual conferences like TED and Collision to business travel and day to day cleaning protocol within an office. We see names like WestJet communicating with their customers and public about their processes and plans during the outbreak. While many others are taking a wait and see approach, not wanting to further promote fear.
We asked our issues management, stakeholder and corporate communications experts to weigh in on what to do if you have not yet begun planning or about the threat of Covid-19 in your business.
Whether you are a small business with a handful of employees or an organization that serves thousands of members of the public, assessment is key. Employees play a vital role in keeping your workplace safe and well run during an outbreak. Reinforcing safety as a core value is something that will go a long way in underscoring trust between you and your customers. But it starts with your own people. Begin by looking at your policies on sick leave and workplace cleanliness. We recommend encouraging anyone with symptoms to stay home. We also recommend communicating and embracing the highest standards in workplace cleanliness and ensuring that you are communicating this new protocol with your team and customers. Without inciting further fear, it’s also valuable to walk through what your operations contingency plan would be if the spread continued as it has in countries like Italy where most businesses have been mandated to remain closed.
Covid-19 fatigue has already begun to set in as new outlets struggle to report on much beyond the spread and hysteria the virus. Remaining factual in the face of fear is an important role to adopt. Our issues management advisor Victoria Levy encourages businesses to have a plan or topline outline of how to communicate internally and externally under what circumstances – and to make that communication not fear driven. For many organizations this would mean having a prepared communication if someone were to come in contact with an infected person if the public health recommendations dramatically changed. Is your business capable of serving customers remotely? And at what point would you shift to doing that.
While we expect the hysteria of this outbreak to be a distant memory by the summer, the impacts could be lasting and potentially serve essential learnings. What efficiencies can be taken from staff working from home? Can impactful conferences be run digitally and at a cost savings? When human interaction and isolation takes place, where do we need to make sure we are making interpersonal real-life connections?
As we navigate through the next few weeks and months, reflecting on these fundamental principles can guide your communication and ensure you remain resilient as an organization.