Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I’m no public health official but I do have a long history in communications. My entire career has been dedicated to providing public information, first as a newspaper publisher and CEO of a major news media company, and now as owner of a marketing communications firm. It’s important to communicate both inside and outside of your organization.
It strikes me as obvious that a major failure regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) would be to say nothing to your team members, stakeholders and customers. This message is intended to spur some thoughts and ideas about how to approach the situation facing all of us.
Keeping your employees and clients safe is job No. 1.
We all know the basics of washing hands and sanitizing surfaces, but it’s critical that a leader goes beyond caring for the physical health of his or her employees and considers their emotional and financial health as well. A checklist to keep in mind:
– Assemble your team members and discuss measures being taken to keep them healthy. This may include practicing prevention, working from home when appropriate, addressing employee financial security and discussing stress and anxiety issues through your company Employee Assistance Program.
– Encourage your executive team and employees to offer ideas on how to plan and communicate about the company’s internal and external situation.
– Avoid disinformation by monitoring updates from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
– Create a communications plan for your company that addresses how you’ll talk to the media and your various audiences. Then let your colleagues know about your plan – whether it’s through a combination of onsite signage, social media, emails, blogs, your website or paid media.
– Consider what’s ahead. Be honest, straightforward and communicate more frequently than usual with your internal and external audiences to keep everyone updated about company plans and action steps.
Help your customers in the same ways.
Now is the time for more frequent conversations to build trust and shore up client relationships. Possible action steps:
– Set up meetings with clients to brainstorm ways to best deal with their individual situations and needs. Be a sounding board for them so that they can confidentially express their concerns and fears to a trusted associate.
– Talk with clients about when and how discounts and incentives could be used to drive business and help customers, further deepening the bonds of trust with all parties.
– Help customers with media plans to keep their audiences informed and find ways to best use their time and money to stay ahead of the competition.
It’s important to remember that this is a very personal situation that requires more humanity than usual. It’s meaningful to let people inside and outside your company walls know that you always look out for them, but certainly more now than ever. And don’t forget – the more sincere the message, the better it will be embraced.
Take care of yourself and each other,