When a crisis occurs, in this case the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s critical to remember that your brand needs to manage through the crisis. While people are still figuring out how to cure, and stop the spread, of the Coronavirus it’s important to support those on the front lines. Further, this is the time to safeguard your reputation so that you can come out of this crisis with an even stronger brand.
In terms of a mapping process, you want to focus on safety, reputation, and then finances. In a perfect world, your company should have prepared in advance – but, most organizations could not have foreseen the extent of the Coronavirus-related consequences. With regards to your reputation, now is the time to lead through inspiration, adapt as needed, and then to offer clarity around roles and leadership.
Invariably, uncertainty abounds and the current state of events changes daily, sometimes even hourly. So then, get your communication plans and control measures organized now. Remember, you can use this experience as a guide to help your business remain prepared for emergencies in the future.
Because, if you respond inappropriately, and a scandal ensues – you may not be able to control it. All you can do is hope that it dies, but you can only do that if you stay two steps ahead. As a result, it is mandatory to stay on top of coverage to give you time to plan your response and actionable steps.
So what can you do to effectively manage how your company handles the implications of the Coronavirus? Keep reading to learn more.
Why your reputation is important
Some companies may think finances are their most valuable asset, but you wouldn’t be able to attract customers without a good reputation. During a crisis, effective communication is necessary to help solidify customer loyalty.
If you have had a public relations misstep, the vital component is trust. To avoid irreversible damage, good communication is imperative. You want to ease any feelings of insecurity, rage, or fear.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to take stock of your organization’s vulnerabilities. Then, draft a crisis management plan that can help to mitigate the impact of an inappropriate Coronavirus response. The objective is to retain the trust of your employees, investors, and customers. Think in terms of your target audience, and create messages that will be relevant to them. You must also always prepare for the worst-case scenario.
For any reputational crisis, there is usually a trigger event before the explosive fire and scapegoating. All members of your organization should be alerted and guided on how to respond effectively. You can then personalize your messages to respond to your audiences as events continue to unfold. Problems will not go away on their own.
Plus, employees are also trying to adjust to this new world after the Coronavirus outbreak. They are looking for your leadership and guidance with continuous messaging daily and updates on next steps. On top of all this, you have to keep a balance and tailor your responses in light of work reductions and layoffs.
Keep in mind your employees can be your biggest advocates. Even when times are tough, it’s important to treat them fairly and with empathy. As you do so, you are also helping to organically improve your brand.
Plus, since recent events have been so unprecedented, many employees are seeing large variations in how organizations have chosen to respond and communicate. Naturally, many are concerned about their livelihoods and whether the business will survive.
And, of course, everyone is worried about their health. Regardless of the questions, and uncertainty, it is better to communicate more than normal. When your employees are well-informed, they can also pass along the information to help your reputation stay intact.
Display empathy in all communications
Right now, silence can be a reputation killer. If you feel you need to hide something, it can be found out. If it is bad, it’s better to let people hear it from you. You should only deny something if it is inherently false. And, don’t scapegoat as this will cause distrust. You can confess, and people will eventually forgive your mistake, but they won’t compromise with lies. You can only come out stronger if you respond, take action, and display honesty.
If your company has already prepared a crisis-management manual, and a highly-trained crisis team, then pat yourself on the back because you have access to the right tools. Preparation always makes it easier to address a critical situation.
If your business was mandated to close, then spend some time mapping your angles during an adverse event. Address the issues in a way that aligns with your audience’s perspective. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Document potential reputation-management strategies and responses.
The Coronavirus crisis has taken a life of its own, so you must continue to stay on top of it. Create a team to address the pandemic who come from varying backgrounds such as public relations professionals, lawyers, technical experts, and front line staff. And, make sure executive management is always front and center.
Let your employees know they come first
One of the most-challenged industries right now is the airline industry, and then tourism. In fact, many airlines have no other choice but to ground many planes and request billion-dollar bailouts. In the case of Delta Airlines, CEO Ed Bastian got ahead of any potentially adverse scenarios by telling his employees that he will not take a salary for the next six months after determining the company had to reduce capacity by 40 percent.
Other CEOs have been able to offer sick pay for infected employees, paid leave, or even keeping some of their staff and making sure they are consistently receiving their paychecks. While not every business can afford to do this, think creatively of how you can help affected employees. How your business responds can have a long-lasting impact. If you can do anything, communications will help your company stand apart during uncertain times. Even smaller companies still have access to various technologies for reaching out.
Confirm contingency plans with your service providers, partners, and vendors
If your company works with various vendors and partners, make sure to collaborate with them and confirm whether they have contingency plans. Also, find out if they are going to be making any changes that may affect your company’s operations and customers.
Right now, many retailers can’t keep adequate stock of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, bottled water, and hand sanitizers to meet the demand. Additionally, grocery delivery services are strained and at capacity. Recently, many food delivery services such as Postmates and Uber Eats announced a no-contact form of delivery. Making sure your employees are informed of these changes can prevent any potential misunderstandings.
What if someone gets sick at work?
If someone contracts the Coronavirus, and works at your office, the impact can be devastating. The last thing you want is for someone to research your company and see Coronavirus on the first page of the search results. You might see all your reputation building efforts wiped out in a matter of days. Then, there is the stigma that could get attached to your brand.
People will wonder if it’s safe to work there, and whether your products are safe to buy. What can you do? Maintain a high level of sanitation on site, take swift action, and respond with empathy.
Be effective in your communications
Sometimes it’s the message, but it’s also how you communicate. Sure, you can send mass emails in an instant – but, in these times, people want more than that. With regard to current government directives, consider a livestream with a Q&A session as well. Then, hold these regularly – perhaps once a day, or several times a week to ensure everyone is updated with the latest news. And, listening might be your most effective tool of all right now. You never know what great ideas you might get from your employees.
When you do send emails, remember to keep your messages short, transparent, empathetic, and easy to read – use bullet points. Think of how to engage your employees. Moreover, when people are stressed, it takes them longer to process and digest information. So then, send several messages. Don’t forget to send messages of encouragement, as well.
Don’t add fuel to the fire
Everyone is fighting over toilet tissue right now. Yet, no one seems to know why. Nonetheless, there are running jokes about toilet paper reaching the value of gold and silver. A lot of this type of panic-buying can be attributed to social media. When the newsfeeds shared constant images of empty store shelves, it induced even level-headed people to rush out and hoard as much as they can afford.
As you can see, your messages may produce unintended consequences. So then, don’t add fuel to the fire or fan the flames. This doesn’t mean your company shouldn’t be transparent, but don’t let your emotions control more logical thought.
Continue with your online reputation building strategy
You can’t put your reputation building plan on the back-burner, even during the Coronavirus crisis. Continue to post inspiring, and thoughtful messages on your social media platforms, write blogs, and display images like business as usual. Just be a bit more careful with your messaging during this time. If you plan to thrive at the other end of this crisis, keep working on your reputation management.
With regard to the Coronavirus pandemic, decide how affected your business is by the crisis and respond accordingly. Do not weigh in on how other institutions have chosen to respond or make judgment calls at this time. Just focus on your business. Remain cognizant of the latest news updates, how it’s impacting your community and customers and tailor your messaging to meet the needs of your audience.
Right now, the most important thing is to keep your employees safe by minimizing the risk of the virus. The next most important thing is to convey empathy for the rapidly-changing series of events and disruption affecting everyone’s lives, especially if your company has already had to execute layoffs and/or closures.
Enhance your reputation by treating everyone well, and thoughtfully. When this is all said and done, people will remember how good you made them feel during their most painful and stressful moments.