BOSTON—We all know that this COVID-19 pandemic will be over eventually, but no one is certain when. During this period of uncertainty, fear and anxiety, it is important to develop a COVID-19 Communications Plan in order to keep your customers, clients and employees informed.
Any crisis communications plan or strategy must be based on following five principles: honesty, authenticity, integrity, truth and compassion. The external goal should be to regularly inform clients about the progress on their project updates. Internally, employees should be encouraged to keep the morale high and offered any assistance possible to them and their families.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
CONTINUE WITH CURRENT COMMUNICATIONS PLAN
If you have scheduled company newsletters, blogs, press releases and internal or external communications mechanisms, you should continue to send them out. You should not stop, though it would be prudent to tweak the messages to reflect current circumstances. Sometimes, organizations can get overwhelmed and unintentionally shutdown their communications channel. This sort of communications blackout might send the wrong message to client or customers.
BUILD A COMMUNICATIONS TEAM
Build an integrated communications team that should include your marketing and business development leads, CEO and heads of various departments. If you’re working on any important projects, it will be wise to involve the heads of major projects as well. The team should meet remotely at least once a week to discuss projects, review the projects and challenges faced, and communicate with appropriate individuals and clients to either update them, find a solution or both.
Depending on the size of your customer and client base, one must choose the correct communications channels to fit your audience. If it is primarily a large Business-to-Consumer (B2C) base in the hundreds of thousands (or larger!), social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook will be your best bet to reach your audience effectively. But if your base is mostly Business-to-Business (B2B), or a small (less than 100,000) B2C, a regular email, newsletter or a phone call (in cases of B2B or a select clientele) will be good way to reach out and maintain your base in these times of non-essential business closure.
Your website can be a very powerful tool. You must keep it updated and refreshing its content from time to time. You should also keep your social media channels such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook updated.
In your communications with your client, you must focus on the following:
- How are you operating and if there will be any delay in project delivery and if yes—how much longer?
- How are you dealing with safety issues related with coronavirus?
It is very important to show your strength and deliver what you have promised. If there is any delay, challenge or an issue, you must inform your client as soon as possible. Remember that in any communications, the following are the most important: honesty, authenticity, integrity, truth and compassion.
By executing an effective and successful communications plan, you will not only stay stable during this crisis, but will come out stronger after this pandemic is over.
(Upendra Mishra is Managing Partner of The Mishra Group, a Waltham, MA-based integrated marketing communications and public relations firm. He can be reached at Mishra@MishraGroup.com)