Top five communications tips for COVID-19

We are being bombarded by information – at work, in the media, on social media and at every social gathering – on the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. You may have heard this word bandied around a lot the last couple of weeks: Catastrophizing.

Merriam-Webster defines catastrophize as:

to imagine the worst possible outcome of an action or event : to think about a situation or event as being a catastrophe or having a potentially catastrophic outcome.

Unfortunately with the proliferation of social media, sharing catastrophizing scenarios has become a favourite pastime for many. As an employer, it’s your job to cut through all of that noise and provide some reassurance and certainty.

1. Put people first.

One of the best things you can do as a responsible employer is to provide reassurance to your workforce.

Don’t pass on the news. Your job is not to report on the crisis, it’s to provide your teams with the information they need to get their jobs done within a supportive environment.

Consider your order of information – your staff should come first

How are your team doing? What will your organisation do should someone become affected?

What should we say to customers? Will impacts on your business affect the quality or delivery of your service or goods? How will you respond to that?

What do you need your teams to do? Are there travel restrictions? Special protocols in place?

How can your teams help? People love to help. Think about how your teams can provide support – either internally or externally.

2. Encourage dialogue.

Open discussion within your teams about how they think they will best be able to support each other in the case of self-isolation. If you’re a larger organisation, ensure you’re having regular cross-team dialogue so that you can support your wider organisation.

3. Ensure your HR policies are up-to-date.

Your HR and communications teams should be working seamlessly (if they’re not already). Now is the time to be disseminating FAQs to your teams about all the possible scenarios that lay ahead. Remember, in the absence of information, the void will be filled with speculation – and that’s not what you, your business, your clients or your teams need.

4. Ensure your Business Continuity Plans / Crisis Plans are up to-date.

With the uncertainty and speed in which this is moving, it’s now time to move away from scenario planning to plan for the worst. Create contingency plans for those worst-case scenarios, building your team’s operational and psychological resilience to cope in this rapidly changing environment.

5. You need to be thinking both operational AND reputational.

There will be an end to all of this and you need to ensure your business is prepared as best you can to ride the storm.