The Coronavirus (Covid19) updates come hourly.
You can see the swing between panic and denial depending on who you are speaking with, reading or listening to.
Personally, I seek the middle ground. I seek information that will prepare me for what I need to be prepared for and advise me when I need to start taking action to protect myself and my loved ones.
I do applaud the measured response of the Irish Government, the International Medical Community and conventional Media in how information is being disseminated in the main.
And yet, I am conscious of the power of communication and how it is often used to control. That subtle bias can creep in to a message and either leave us unprepared for reality or too scared to act.
“Verify The Source” and “Check the Agenda“
…is a message I find myself saying to my son as he soaks up information like a sponge. That ability to sense what is underlying is a skillset this next generation needs to equip itself with more and more.
When I turn to Social Media, in particular Twitter, to get a sense of how we, the population at large are responding it’s not so clear cut. The panic is easy to find. And so too is the inconsistent and often distorted spin from the current POTUS which often leaves me incredulous.
I am encouraged by the stance of sources such as UNICEF who post practical articles and useful infographics such as this:
Which leads me to the purpose of this article and why it’s important that you as a business have a responsibility to communicate to your stakeholders; your customers, your suppliers, your employees and your shareholders.
Your Communication Strategy Around Coronavirus Is Critical
It’s also an opportunity to show that you understand the context of the world we live in.
In my local supermarket I hear the staff talking about whether they should go ahead with their planned vacations or not. There is fear that should they cancel, they will not be covered by their travel insurance because they don’t know their insurers position on the coronavirus.
Rumors are rife about school children returning home from long saved for ski trips to Italy. Have they been quarantined? Has there been a case? Will all the schools close now?
Sporting & Entertainment Events are in flux. Some are cancelled. Some not.
Businesses who import ingredients / components from China are fearful of stock shortages and a potential loss in sales. Is there an alternative? How will this affect customer relationships?
Companies whose employees travel for work are cancelling client visits and are choosing remote working instead. This can often have a dramatic impact on growth plans. How are customers reacting? Are they choosing an alternative? How are employees feeling? Is there fear?
And of course let’s not talk about the run on toilet rolls. That, it seems is a universal fear!
Anchor Points for Your Communication
There are always trusted sources to be found at times like this. For your stakeholders you need to be one of those trusted sources.
Inaction or overzealous action are equally negative positions to take. Either position can have an impact on mental health and on future relationships inside and outside your business.
Let’s discuss some key anchor points for your response strategy. Consider your response in light of these questions:
1. Value Chain Visibility
Understand every step in the value chain. Where are you sourcing from at a first, second and third level. Who is impacted in the chain? What kind of inventory are you holding? How long will it last?
When do you need to action a Plan B? Are there local alternatives to you and / or your customer and do you need to ready them for action now?
Are your customers concerned? How are you communicating your readiness to minimise the impact on them.
Visibility around your preparedness can be important. It is reassuring to your customers that you understand the context and are prepared for it.
2. Employee Care
There is stress in the workplace right now about Coronavirus. Where travel is part of your team’s responsibilities it is particularly pertinent. Are there alternatives to in-person meetings? Can the role be fulfilled remotely?
Have you employees returning from vacation in affected countries? Do you know? Do you remember to ask where someone has been as they return from vacation?
How are you reassuring your employees that you are keeping on top of this? What message are you sending by your actions here?
Are you guiding them about how they can prepare personally?
Do you have hygiene policies that show you are paying attention?
How are you demonstrating this? With signage? Care packs incl. hand sanitizers etc?
3. What’s Your Position If You Are Directly Impacted With A Case?
Consider the case of the Cruise Ship lockdown and the lessons that can already be learned there.
Is your business in a position where you might face such a situation?
Are you prepared for the impact physically and mentally for all involved?
Can you demonstrate competence in this situation?
Prepare | Clarify | Communicate
Allow me to leave you with 3 Simple Words to Guide Your Communications & Response Strategy:
- Prepare. Protect your business and prepare for impact from all sides of the value chain.
- Clarify what is real and what isn’t.
- Communicate to all your Stakeholders how you are preparing and addressing the crisis. Remember an absence of a message is in itself a message.
Is There A Positive Outcome?
My final thought is to ask you how can you transform this “window” of uncertainty into a positive outcome?
Can your understanding of the “World Context” deepen your relationships with your stakeholders?
Is there an opportunity to develop new relationships that are closer to your customer?
Is this a time when you could reflect on your strategy and explore something new in the business?
Can you help others locally? Is there something that you can do to help just outside your front door to alleviate someone else’s challenges?
It could be sharing how technology can be used to facilitate remote working, it could be sharing something in your supply chain?
Put your thinking cap on here.
Useful Links on Coronavirus
- W.H.O (World Health Organisation) Covid 19 Advice for the Public – HERE.
- UNICEF – Coronavirus What Parents Should Know – HERE.
- World Economic Forum – How Companies Can Respond – HERE.
- World Economic Forum – The Impact of Coronavirus on Business – HERE.
- Global Workplace Insider – Employers Duty to it’s Employees in the Context of Cornavirus – HERE.
- Nieman Lab – Not To Alarm You But Corona Focused News Products are Spreading Very Quickly – HERE.
- RTE – Latest Covid 19 Updates – HERE.
- Media Bias Fact Checker – HERE.
If you would like to know more about how you can create an effective communications strategy for your business. Reach Out Here and let’s have a conversation about how our International Panel of Experts can help you.