COVID-19, or the coronavirus, is creating a rapidly developing public health situation impacting businesses across the world. When it comes to industry, it isn’t discriminating.
As a consumer, I feel the same mix of emotions that my community feels — sadness, sympathy or frustration. But as a communications expert, these crises can be difficult to watch for other reasons. Slow reaction times, inconsistent messaging, poor interview training and a lack of community are some of the ways companies mismanage organizational crises. The really bad ones are like snowballs — with each move it grows until it’s out of control.
To stop that snowball in its tracks, we’ve identified three key values to embrace during any crisis situation: transparency, timeliness and authenticity.
1. Transparency: Transparency drives consumer loyalty. According to a Sprout Social survey, 85% of Americans are likely to stick with a business during a brand crisis if it has a history of being transparent.
When a crisis arises, determine the critical information your audiences need to know and share it. Even if you don’t have all the answers yet, communicate the relevant facts as soon as possible or risk your audience thinking you’re keeping them in the dark.
Balanced communications help reinforce transparency and honesty. It’s important you don’t incite panic, but don’t sugar-coat the situation either. Sharing openly and often is key to building trust.
2. Timeliness: During times of crisis, it’s important to share critical information to all audiences when they need it.
Consider your community. What level of detail do your remote employees, community partners and suppliers need during a crisis? Prioritize your audiences based on each scenario and keep them up to date along the way.
Frequent updates are even more critical when dealing with a public health crisis. The coronavirus and resulting precautionary measures are changing daily. Leaving audiences to wonder can generate rumors and incite panic.
3. Authenticity: A crisis is not the time to learn company messaging or values; these should already be embedded in your organization. Your communications should reflect your values, especially during a crisis. Be real with your audiences by showing empathy, concern and sincerity. And remind your legal counsel that empathy is not an admission of guilt.
Authenticity helps employees feel equipped in a crisis. No one wants to receive exaggerated or inauthentic talking points. When a company speaks from the heart and navigates a crisis with care, employees feel empowered and maintain a sense of pride in their workplace.
When crises strike, it’s all hands on deck. If you are in the midst of a crisis and need support, partner with us to address it with transparency, timeliness and authenticity. Email our team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.