When a crisis hits, especially one with the worldwide repercussions of that of the Covid-19, knowing how, when, and what to communicate becomes more of an art than a science. This is clearly not the ideal time for a product launch, but should communications be paralyzed altogether?
It’s important to ask the question: Do you have something to contribute to the various conversations related to the crisis and can you do so in a helpful, constructive, and meaningful way without being perceived as trying to benefit (or out to sell) from the situation? If so, think about which publics you will communicate to, what are your messages to each and what is the best channel, or a variety of channels to utilize. Thankfully in today’s day and age, we have many to choose from.
If you are in the travel industry or other consumer-facing industries like gyms and retail establishments, it’s important to activate communications direct to customers to calm their concerns for their safety and security. Airlines and hotel chains did this just days after Covid-19 was considered a threat.
Sending out a press release simply announcing you are doing what you should be doing anyway won’t necessarily be well received, as it’s almost as if you’re patting yourself on the back. There are, however, times when a press release makes sense like when you are delivering something of value for the communities you serve. This is where the art comes in. Barco Uniforms, for example, put out a press release announcing their donation of 10,000 scrubs to healthcare teams in need. In this case they’re communicating something of great value during this critical time when healthcare organizations need all the help they can get.
After 24/7 coverage of the Covid-19 virus, people are eventually going to grow tired of more of the same and will be craving an outlet, so there will be editorial space and time devoted to more positive, refreshing news stories as people really want to get along with the business of living their lives. More than likely unsung heroes will emanate from the crisis and the media will be talking about them. Or, there might be things you’re doing that will make everyone’s lives better. DownDog, a popular yoga platform, for example, announced that access to their online classes will be free through April. Now that’s a welcome respite for those of us that are burning the midnight oil or simply worrying about what might be next. They announced this on their social platforms where they have thousands of yogi followers.
Can your company or brand provide a welcome outlet in times of crisis or simply make life easier or better? Communicating this has never been easier with the various technology platforms at our fingertips. Take Jorge Drexler, a popular Uruguayan singer who had to cancel his concert in Costa Rica due to Covid-19. He made the best of an unfortunate situation and shared a special concert on Facebook Live direct from an empty theater. The concert was seen by more than 6,000 people. This generous act went viral and helped to calm the stress with a positive experience, at least for a little bit.
What if things go from bad to worse?
Should things get worse – and they can always get worse – this is when crisis plans are put into effect. Frontline communicators will be charged with communicating what companies are doing amidst the situation to calm concerns. Transparent, honest communications are always the order of the day. This crisis and all others that come before and after reminding us to update our crisis plan to define communications protocols for responding in a variety of situations. It’s important to keep in mind all of your key publics, beginning with employees all the way to partners and customers.
We are all in this crisis together and sometimes a crisis tests a company’s mettle and demonstrates how fostering a spirit of collaboration both internally and externally can go a long way toward making a bad situation a little better.