Development of a crisis communication plan in times of Covid-19

The Coronavirus crisis keeps expanding and concerns every company. This unprecedented world crisis brings with it one certainty: a crisis communication plan has a reason to exist in all types of organisation, small or large, in NGO’s, in institutions,… Why? To protect your reputation among clients, employees and other stakeholders, to consolidate your company position on the market, to reassure your stakeholders of your credibility and to face the future with a stronger image.

But a communication plan to fight a crisis requires preparation, testing, adaptations, which takes days, weeks, or even ... months.

However, we are running out of time.

Here are some practical steps to quickly implement adequate measures to face this Covid-19 crisis as well as be prepared for future situations.

What if nothing happens? Then you have already developed an organised and flexible response in the event of a future catastrophe or a major issue.

1) Monitor the media, all the media

Continuously monitor what is reported in the media about your company as well as your competitors and your sector often offers a decisive perspective on the decision-making process. In addition, do not limit yourself to press monitoring, but keep an eye on digital tools, social media and online newspapers as well.

2) Use recognized experts as credentials

The main challenge is to access the most up-to-date and verified pieces of information, so you need to gather reliable sources. Having an overview of the correct and available pieces of information allows reference to it in internal or external communications to limit speculation.

It is also beneficial to use experts to provide further technical and epidemiological data , and to communicate with the employees. Experts in virology or public health can be an essential source of information and a trustworthy means of confirming often complex and changing information.

Furthermore, clearly distinguishing the facts, the hypotheses and the rumours can help communicate a more complete and nuanced image. Finally, identifying possible scenarios that might affect your company during the crisis might increase the quality of your responses.

3) Map your stakeholders

It is obvious that no one can be left behind. Identify the stakeholders that might be concerned by the situation : employees and their families, unions, clients and prospects, suppliers, distributors, franchisees, political networks (local or national), partners, sponsors, professional federations, chambers of commerce, the general public, interest groups, competitors, …

4) Look your stakeholders in the eye

Engaging yourself in proactive communication will only be possible if you proactively communicate on your positions, vision, ideas,… If you create a direct connection with your target groups, then you will maximise your chances to see the correct information being spread. Proactivity, but also rapid communication, can build up trust among your target groups.

5) List all your communication channels and dare to innovate

Using your website is fine, but in the case of a crisis, it is also the moment to communicate on social media and diffuse the pieces of information to as many people as possible.

It is essential to identify all your existing communication channels, audit the missing ones and do not hesitate to implement new communication tools to optimise your communication. Even a temporary website exclusively set upfor the crisis might be an interesting option.

6) Choose your crisis heroes to run the crisis marathon

Constituting a small team of reliable members and giving it sufficient leeway to make quick tactical decisions is strongly recommended. Even if they look tireless, make sure they can rely on back ups. You know when your crisis starts, but you never know when it stops.

7) Update the list of external people to contact

Public authorities or journalists, clients or suppliers, it is not uncommon for the latest list of contacts to be out of date. It is essential to save time in the event of a crisis by establishing a complete list of contacts well in advance.