The Novel Coronavirus is rapidly spreading around the world, sickening hundreds of thousands and killing thousands. On US shores, multiple states have declared a state of emergency due to the virus. In addition to its medical impact, we're also seeing an incredible economic one. Supply chains have been disrupted, the market is in free fall, major events are being canceled, and small businesses are struggling.
The speed at which the virus has thrown our lives into upheaval shows just how important it is to have a corporate crisis response ready to go. Here's how to approach yours.
Preparing for a Crisis
Crises can arise from internal or external factors at any time, and with devastating rapidity. This is why it's vital to have an established plan in place. This way there's no need to waste time on red tape - you can simply do what needs to be done.
In developing your crisis preparedness approach, you should:
- Identify your crisis communications team. Know who will be in charge of what, and what kind of hierarchy is involved. Ensure that your team is aware of their responsibilities.
- Identify key stakeholders. These are the people you'll need to inform or educate if or when a crisis arises. It's vital that you understand their needs so that when the time arises you know what needs to be communicated.
- Have a workflow in place. Things need to move quickly in a crisis situation. Establish a simple and effective workflow that lets you act fast, but that allows for appropriate oversight and sign-off.
- Anticipate potential crises. Some crises arise seemingly out of nowhere, while others can be hinted at through the news or from public sentiment. Stay abreast of your industry and global events, and try to know you stand at all times. This will help you respond proactively rather than reactively.
What to Do When a Crisis Arises
When a crisis looms, it's time to gather your crisis communication team and set your workflow in action. Here's what to do:
- Develop key messages. These should be tailored to the key stakeholders identified in your earlier preparation, such as employees, customers, shareholders or the media. Consider both the messaging and the format: any important announcements should be easy to access and share.
- Take a broader look. Look at the responses being made by your competition or by the market more broadly, and see how their responses are being received by the public. If there has been backlash or negative sentiment, consider adjusting your messaging.
- Stay on brand. During a crisis, your brand identity matters as much as ever. Stay true to your company voice, and keep your messaging aligned with your usual approach. Business Insider has some great branded messages from gyms about the coronavirus.
- Communicate early and often. The earlier you act the better chance you have of directing the narrative. Keep people in the loop and inform them of applicable updates. You want them to know that you value them and are actively working to resolve the situation.
- Reshape existing marketing activities. If you have scheduled posts or campaigns that may be affected by the virus, consider shifting your marketing focus and developing new content. (Notably, Corona is pushing forward with its "Coming ashore soon" campaign, with results TBD.) In doing so, make sure that your content continues to be engaging. Consider participatory topics and activities such as games, voting, and questionnaires.
- Consider extra steps. Depending on the crisis, consider whether there are steps or initiatives you can propose to go the extra mile. Donations, discounts, freebies or flexibility around purchases or bookings can all help.
What to Do Post-Crisis
It may not feel like it when you're in the depths of it, but all crises blow over eventually. Once the crisis has abated, review your response and turn it into a learning experience for the next one.
In reviewing your crisis response:
- Evaluate your performance. Assess what your company did well, and identify what you could have done more efficiently or effectively. Gather and use any feedback.
- Adapt and learn. Not all crises are avoidable, but if it's possible to avoid a similar crisis in the future, consider what it would take to do so.
- Retain new customers. If you experienced a spike in engagement or landed new users or customers, consider what you can do to retain them and further grow your community.
If your business doesn't yet have a corporate crisis communication approach in play, get in touch. We can help you move quickly to ensure that your reputation remains in good stead now - and in the future.