Two weeks ago, COVID-19 was deemed by many to be worthy of a front-page article, but it was probably not on most UK business’s internal communications agendas.
In the wake of the increasingly worsening situation, planning around Coronavirus will be a challenge for even those with the very best business continuity plans. It’s a dynamic situation and it’s moving at pace.
At Yogurt Top Marketing, we have been providing crisis communications counsel to businesses since early February, which involves advising and guiding them about how best to communicate with staff, customers and wider stakeholders during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. And the reality is, most UK businesses need to put their crisis communications plans in motion, right now!
The Coronavirus crisis is a little different from other crisis communication situations. So here’s a quick guide, if you’re unsure of what to do now.
Adapt your business’s communications plan
Most businesses should adapt their communications plans (if they have one) to be staff centric; with the narrative being driven from inside the organisation. It is crucial that UK businesses implement a joined-up communications approach to ensure that their messages are right for their employees. Internal communications need to work hand in hand with legal, HR and IT.
Agree on communication channels
It’s important that as a business, you agree on what communications channel is to be used as your ‘original source’ for staff to access information. I.e. internal CRM, email, social media or an in-person briefing. Whichever way you choose to communicate Coronavirus updates to your workforce, it’s important that your staff know exactly where to go to find the latest, most up to date information.
Carry out clear updates
A consistent and clear daily update is a good starting point for internal communications, but, additional, critical information should be shared in real-time. The most reliable source of factual, Coronavirus related information is available via the UK government website.
Daily staff updates should offer reassurance, guidance and next steps. Carrying out clear and timely updates will ensure that your staff are informed and composed, as the situation continues to develop.
When communicating updates to your staff, it’s also important that you consider any questions they may have – it’s a good idea to prepare an FAQ document in advance.
Support your employee’s health and wellbeing
It’s imperative that business owners make sure that the practicalities of dealing with Coronavirus don’t overshadow the mental wellbeing of their staff. The Coronavirus outbreak may genuinely worry some of your workforce, particularly if they are more at risk of developing complications as a result of contracting COVID-19, or have family and friends that are at risk. It would be good practice for all businesses to actively promote charities and avenues where staff can access support for their mental health and wellbeing, such as The Kaleidoscope Plus Group. Anything you can do to keep your workforce calm is certainly time well spent.
Both internal and external collaboration is key if your business is to weather the storm. There are usually three key operational teams at the heart of any crisis response, who need to work seamlessly together.
Three key operational teams for crisis management:
Public relations and communications teams
Public relations and communications teams are tasked with developing and delivering a business’s messaging, both internally and externally.
Legal and regulatory teams
Legal and regulatory teams are in charge of understanding the business’s risk exposures, as well as advising on appropriate responses.
Operational response teams
Operational response teams have the responsibility of handling everything else. For example, establishing the facts that PR and legal teams need to do their jobs.
teams have the responsibility of handling everything else, for example, establishing the facts that PR and legal teams need to do their jobs.
Key tips for Coronavirus and crisis communications:
- – Reassure the workforce that your business is staying ahead of the situation.
- – Explain what precautions the business is taking i.e. daily updates, work travel restrictions, more frequent cleaning, home working policy, etc.
- – Point staff towards clear and unbiased official guidance – for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Public Health England.
- – Appoint the services of a reputable HR and employment law company to ensure your policies and plans are both compliant and effective, such as Neate & Pugh.
For more information and support please contact Rebecca Underwood, Communications Director at Yogurt Top Marketing.