If your company isn't thinking about and taking action regarding coronavirus, you had better get started. No matter how small or local your company is, it's crisis communications time. It's not a crisis of your making, but it nonetheless demands your attention. Your inattention can negatively impact how people feel about your brand.
How you communicate internally and externally about coronavirus is a make-or-break public relations moment. Here are some thoughts to consider.
Communicate regularly with all your audiences. For example, you should be letting employees know things like when to come to work and when to work from home, how to communicate with customers, how to keep the office or facilities clean, and what, if any, adjustments you'll make to your sick-leave policy. If you don't maintain open communication with your people, you are heightening your staff's stress during an already stressful time.
Externally, you should be communicating with customers and vendors about what you are doing to keep them and your own people safe. People want to do business with organizations that show they care about the people who work for them and with them, and who buy from them. I've been getting such emails from companies like American Airlines and Lyft.
If you are a gym, fitness center, restaurant, daycare facility, or any place where large crowds gather, you need to communicate regularly and often with your clientele.
Other communication can wait
While you pour all of your time and energy into coronavirus communication, put other communication on the back burner.
You might really want to publicize your spring conference, but who knows if it's even happening. Consider that South by Southwest canceled its 2020 festival; that's huge. You might want to tell the world all about your products coming to market in the coming weeks. But do you know how your supply chain could be impacted?
Even if your event comes to fruition, or your new product is able to come to market without any delay, is it really what you should be talking about right now? Is it worth the reputational risk of seeming out of touch or tone-deaf?
If you have any doubts about how to communicate with your staff and your customers right now, ask yourself these questions: What do I want to know from the companies and organizations that I interact with? What are my communication needs and expectations?
This is how to get on track to communicate prolifically and powerfully -- essential in times of crisis and essential to protecting your brand. While the world worries about the spread of the virus, you will own your crucial PR moment spreading information and showing that you care.
For information about financial support available to companies hit by the coronavirus crisis, read Inc.'s Coronavirus Financial Assistance Tracker, updated daily.