In discussions with Kimberly Kayler, CPSM, president of Advancing Organizational Excellence (AOE) and well-known consulting firm and crisis management consultant, she offers the following advice that I wanted to pass on to you:
While things may have settled somewhat into a groove from a communications standpoint related to the pandemic, we are entering the info-react decision scenario once again as re-occupancy and opening businesses moves onto our horizon. It is not too late to plan. There is still plenty of communication ahead of us, so taking the time to pause right now and assemble your crisis plan will help reduce the fatigue of the last four months.
So, as we enter this next phase, here are some key steps you can take to ensure a smooth communications process:
- Analyze: What has worked well thus far? What lessons learned can you identify that will help guide your efforts moving forward?
- Plan: Look closely at the team needed to help you move forward from a decision and communications standpoint, as well as take the time to identify the consistent key messages. Assemble the team. Have a process for review of information and how it is distributed.
- Channels: Consider your channels for distribution. While it is wise to stick with the communication mediums that are tried and true with your target audiences, such as an established and well-vetted email distribution list, does your reach need to expand at all for this next phase?
- Protocols: Develop a process for communicating news and procedures related to COVID-19 as well as return to work. Examples include a process for incident reports related to COVID-19, such as who does an employee notify if they have tested positive? What about violations by those not wearing proper protective equipment or using a space that is closed off? After protocols are created, make sure all concerned know both the expectations and ramifications.
Some other key reminders related to crisis communications best practices include:
- Have a consistent spokesperson(s). Many have found it is helpful to have one person, such as the HR director, handle operational updates, while the president is the author of more of the compassionate, human element types of communication.
- Don’t change your core values, culture or brand at this time. Stick to your key messages.
- Communicate early and often. Tell your audience when and how you will communicate, and then follow-through. Don’t wait to respond until you have all the answers: acknowledge what you know as well as what you are working on. Transparency is key.
While there are many best practices to follow, there is no one-size fits all guidebook for navigating COVID-19, so working with a team with deep expertise in crisis communications is advantageous.
For more information on crisis communication, read the recap of the most recent Coleman Roundtable, or visit the AOE Resources page. AOE, a for-profit subsidiary of ACI, is an association management, marketing and operations consulting firm.
Jeffrey W Coleman, PE, FACI
President, American Concrete Institute
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