Beehive has been working closely with clients and the U.S. communications industry on crisis planning, activation and communication as coronavirus and COVID-19 cases have continued to spread across the globe and into local communities.
Everything shifted for Americans March 11 when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic. Once the U.S. declared a national emergency, society shifted to a “shut down” unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes. Based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) projections, we need to prepare for weeks, and likely months, of adjustments that will impact daily living, communities, businesses and the economy.
Businesses are implementing continuity plans designed to minimize business disruption and prioritize the health and safety of people. Strategies have gone from shifting by the day to shifting by the hour. If your organization’s business continuity plan needs a boost, here are some quality sources.
- FEMA: Business continuity plan
- FEMA: Emergency preparedness resources for businesses
- Ready.gov: Business continuity plan
- U.S. Department of Labor: COVID-19 and the Family and Medical Leave Act Questions and Answers
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Alice: COVID-19 Business Resource Center
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Combating the Coronavirus
The amount of information and the speed at which guidance changes can overwhelm even the most skilled leaders who are committed to doing and saying the right thing. As uncertainty grows, credible, clear and consistent communication is vital to business stability. Here are some key insights, along with suggested resources and sample tools to support effective communication in even the most difficult circumstances.
Misinformation, politically charged accusations and unsubstantiated theories can be rampant in crisis situations, and we’re certainly seeing this with COVID-19. People are seeking information they can trust and believe. Make sure you are using only the most credible sources to provide accurate updates and guidance to your organization and other stakeholders. These are the resources our team and clients are consistently consulting and citing at this time.
COVID-19 General Information and Resources
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC): About Coronavirus Disease 2019
- Johns Hopkins University: COVID-19 case dashboard
- Mayo Clinic News Network: COVID-19
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: COVID-19 overview and additional resources
- Red Cross: Coronavirus: Safety Tips for You
- Stay Home, Save Lives
- The White House: Guidelines to Slowing the Spread
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Combating the coronavirus
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus Outbreak
As you communicate, keep the information simple, factual and provide links to sources whenever possible. Eliminate speculation, opinions or assumptions from your messages. This will ensure everyone trusts what is shared. And while business must continue, it is critically important to be thoughtful and sensitive about any external brand marketing or messages that could be inadvertently perceived as tone-deaf or opportunistic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is unique in that every person’s life, family, work and community has begun to be directly impacted. People are distracted, stressed and likely worried about how everyday life is changing — and will continue to change. This is especially true for employees. Modeling calm behavior and providing clarity to your organization about policies and expectations will help ease concerns while also protecting your workplace and business operations. Educate employees with clear steps they can take to protect themselves and their colleagues/clients. Communicate clear guidance on policies regarding sick time, remote work arrangements and travel restrictions. And be sure to provide the detail needed to answer key questions regarding impact to payroll, paid time off and dependent care. Here are the resources we’re drawing from to update policies and procedures in real time.
COVID-19 Impact on Business and Employees
- Accenture: Productivity in Uncertain Times through the Elastic Digital Workplace
- CDC: Resources for Businesses and Employers
- EY: Responding to COVID-19
- Forrester: PandemicEX: The employee experience of coronavirus
- Gallup: How to Manage the Loneliness and Isolation or Remote Workers
- Gallup: COVID-19 Strategies and Policies of the World’s Largest Companies
- Gartner: Lead New Ways of Working
- Harvard Business Review: Coronavirus: Leading and working through a pandemic
- Marketing Dive: How brands are taking extra precaution to avoid coronavirus insensitivities
- Medium: How to Be a Force for Good During Crisis: B Corps Focus on Community
- McKinsey & Company: Coronavirus: Leading through the crisis
- PwC: COVID-19: What US business leaders should know
This is a fast-changing issue and emotions are running high. Many organizations have implemented communication plans with their teams and customers. Now it’s time to commit to and shift to a schedule and channels that will guarantee consistent, proactive “official” updates – even if there’s nothing significantly new to share.
In the absence of information, people will make assumptions that may be based on misinformation or grounded in fear, which can quickly lead to larger issues. To mitigate this risk, provide employee updates at least twice weekly to share new information, reinforce organizational policies and provide additional guidance. Use a multi-channel approach that engages stakeholders in a variety of ways, online, offline and in-person. Having a regular flow of trusted information will help put employees at ease, empower them to stay safe and help them stay focused.
Be sure your organization has employee feedback loops, like text and phone hotlines and email addresses, that are consistently monitored and managed. Leaders need to know what is on the hearts and minds of employees in real time during a crisis. Employee input can guide content for regular communication.
No one can predict the duration or severity of COVID-19 and the long-term impact it will have on our organizations, economy and communities. What we can control is how we communicate with and support our employees, customers and stakeholders. Providing clear, credible and consistent information is essential to successfully manage through times of crisis, confusion and uncertainty.
Leaders can openly promote trusted information sources like those highlighted above. Beehive also is pointing our stakeholders and networks to national media sources for breaking news coverage. Here are the sources we believe are delivering thorough, balanced and clear information.
COVID-19 National News Media Sources
- AP News: Virus outbreak
- The New York Times: Coronavirus latest updates
- The Wall Street Journal: Live updates: Coronavirus and business
- The Washington Post: Coronavirus latest news
- National Public Radio: The Coronavirus crisis
Be well everyone.