As my family and I prepared for a long-planned trip to Dublin, Ireland last March the consistent background murmur of a virus originating from China caught my attention. Should we cancel, or was it just another hyped news story to bolster ratings? We went. Thankfully, we returned the day before international travel was shutdown. Now, nearly a year later Covid-19 is still controlling our lives.
Covid remains an on-going crisis
Countless corporations and small businesses have been dealing with this seemingly never ending creature for far too long. We are all exhausted! But now it is more important than ever to continue effectively communicating with your customers, employees and public.
There are steps savvy leaders can proactively take during uncertainty.
1. Think judiciously about how to tell your story.
The easiest way to get media coverage is to tie your pitch to an existing big story, like Covid-19. However, before making that call consider whether you could be seen benefiting from a catastrophe.
Think about whether your story has a legitimate pandemic angle. For example, I worked with a client in the healthcare space announcing changes made during the pandemic, including adding telehealth. It generated a lot of genuine coverage.
2. Be Aware Newsroom Staff is Shrinking especially During the Pandemic.
Like other businesses Covid has led to layoffs and limited staff in newsrooms. Smaller staff means editors are more particular about who and what stories they cover. So it may be a tougher pitch.
3. Conduct an Environmental Scan
Consistently be aware of how Covid may be impacting your competitors or another industry that may reflect or impact your business. Like dominoes, the media likes to see which way the story leads or falls. For example if you run a hospital in New York and a hospital in rural Georgia is throwing out vaccines because staff is reluctant to get the shot, local media may call you. Is it happening locally?
During a crisis remember:
- Preparation helps leaders manage a crisis, protect their reputation and rebuild a good reputation where damage has been done.
- Readiness reduces missteps which protects reputations.
- The time to plan for a disaster is not when the ship is sinking, but before it hits the iceberg.
- Immediately acknowledge the crisis; often with a holding statement
- Control and manage the situation proactively
- Know your audience(s)
- Connect with clear concise compelling messages
- STAY on message
- Be responsive to media inquiries
- Be transparent
- Communicate to both internal AND EXTERNAL AUDIENCES
- Ensure social media messages align with all other communications
Don’t let fear and possible litigation have you running scared. Remember a quick, strategic response in a crisis is an opportunity for leaders to show resolute determination and resiliency.
-Susanne LaFrankie, M.A