by Mark Nylander
As a participant in this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic crisis, I also find myself critiquing the responses from individuals, organizations, and corporations in the face of this crisis situation.
Like many of you, I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here are a few of my thoughts from observing those involved in crisis communications.
Key stakeholder groups have separate and diverse needs.
Your communication with key stakeholders should be informative, timely, accurate and honest. But, don’t treat this as a “one size fits all.” Your communications should reflect the different and diverse needs of your various audience segments.
For employees and staff, many of whom are experiencing a major crisis for the first time, you must demonstrate to them that you truly care about their well-being. With customers, you can ditch the hard sell and think creatively how you can adjust your focus to meet the demands they are now facing. During these times of uncertainty, you can establish loyalty and trust if you handle the situation properly.
It’s not just the words, it’s the tone of your communications.
Here in Ohio, the daily 2pm briefings from Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director, Dr. Amy Acton, have become “must-see TV.” While the communication from Gov. DeWine and Dr. Acton is factual and informative, the tone with which they deliver their messaging is compassionate and caring.
The message from our leaders in Ohio is clearly resonating with residents across the State as their instructions related to social distancing and other preventative steps are having a positive impact by reducing the spread of the virus and “flattening the curve.” This has much to do with not only what they are communicating, but how they are communicating.
Here’s a link where you can watch the briefings from the Ohio Statehouse live daily at 2pm or recordings of all previous briefings.
Develop a cadence for communications.
Regularly scheduled updates or briefings work best during this time when the barrage of information from so many sources can seem overwhelming. Determine what works best for you and your stakeholders. You want to stay connected, but communications that is too frequent and lacking content or updated information will quickly find their way to the trash bin.
Also consider branding your communications and including a section on your website with updates related to your response to the coronavirus outbreak. This will help you cut through the clutter and provide a repository of information that your stakeholders can access at their convenience.
Stick to the facts.
The internet can be both a friend and foe in a crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. Our ability to stay connected with tools such as Zoom and Slack have made working remotely much less daunting than we might have anticipated. However, the flood of information and misinformation about the spread of the coronavirus and the impact it is having on people’s lives can be confusing and frightening.
Recently, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) published its Infodemic Rx: 3 Simple Steps for Staying Informed During the Coronavirus Crisis. Check out this link for more about these three simple steps: 1). Focus on facts, 2). Use trusted sources for up-to-date info, and 3). Check sources three times daily. Consider including these basic steps as part of your communications strategy to assist with successfully navigating this crisis.
Mark Nylander is Principal at Nylander + Partners, a strategic communications consultancy, and is Senior Advisor at 360 Marketing, LLC. He has more than three decades of experience assisting organizations with crisis preparedness planning and navigating crisis situations to minimize the damage to the organization’s reputation and bottom line.