Communicating in a Coronavirus Crisis

By March 26, 2020 Stories

Right now we are facing an unprecedented crisis, and personally I doubt that dealing with such a crisis was ever on anyone’s radar and certainly not in a typical business crisis comms plan.

Covid-19 feels like something from a horror film, streets are mostly deserted, we are locked in our homes facing an unknown threat from the world outside which could strike us at any moment in time.

Right now, there is a lot going on, and business owners have suddenly had to gain an extra 24 hours in the day to deal with the day to day running of their business but also plan for a variety of scenarios of which right now, we have no idea as to the outcome and more specifically how long we might be in a period of lockdown.

We are facing a lot of unknowns and demands from our stakeholders to react quickly which will quite naturally impact the quality of our communications whether it be with colleagues, your clients or other stakeholders.

So first things first, consider what your business does and where the priority communications lay? Map them out in order of priority so you can work through and dedicate time to communicating with stakeholders.

Internal Comms

This is likely to be your most important communications channel. As most people are now remote working it’s important to decide which channels to communicate with your internal audience through.

Right now, the whole of the UK is having to adapt to new ways of working, so speak with your peers and engage with your colleagues for recommendations as to how they might want to approach communications moving forward.

Understand what matters to them and set agreements as to when and how you will check in with them. This could be anything from a team catch up in the morning and at the end of the day to more formal communications.

Customer Engagement

We’ve probably all been bombarded this past week with email updates from supermarkets and online retailers as to how they are coping with the current crisis. But if you’re a smaller business this should be more personalised. Start with using your email, website and social media channels to put out an initial update as to how you are handling the current crisis and what it means to them and then follow up with personal phone calls.

This past week I have spoken verbally to pretty much all our clients (subject to their availability) to assure them as to what we are doing to support them through the current challenges and our plans for switching up their approach. 

This has often turned into personal catch up, discussing the current challenges in both business and life, which identifies positive client relations. If you can’t engage with your customers at this level then this is something you need to address longer-term. 

Use Social Media

While there is a wealth of information going around right now and you might feel like you have nothing further to add. This couldn’t be further from the truth! 

Of course, you should have a clear communication strategy and not just push content out for content’s sake, but it is important to consider that people follow your social media channels for a reason and by demonstrating that you are on top of the current issues affecting them and how it links in with your service office are vitally important.

Going quiet during such a time could be perceived that you’re not quite at the top of your game and could result in potential new business leads directing their attentions to your competitor.

The Power of PR

While PR refers to your overall public relations activity and you should consider an integrated approach to your communication strategy, in this case, I am referring to the press.  

Although we are being bombarded with news around Coronavirus, at the same time the press, and in particular the Yorkshire media want to ensure ‘business as normal’ where possible. They are continuing to share positive news while providing expert commentary on the current situation.

How can you add an authoritative voice to the current situation which adds value and helps to reassure both your customers and potential customers? In the Yorkshire press there are some quick-win opportunities such as the Yorkshire Post’s ‘Top 10 Tips’, Umi’s ‘How do I’ and Business Leader’s ‘How to’ amongst many more. 

Most importantly keep an eye on what is going on in your sector and consider how you might be able to respond to it. As an example, when the Bank of England dropped their interest rates significantly to mitigate the economic impact of Coronavirus, we were quick on the case to share with the media what our clients thought about the matter which resulted in coverage on the Yorkshire Post website for Poppleton & Appleby Northern and as a result, we saw very quick improvements to both their website visibility and keyword rankings.

Also, keep an eye out for #journorequest on Twitter, everyday journalists are on the hunt for expert insight on specific topics, and make sure you follow these individuals. By establishing a rapport they may begin to approach you directly in future to add insights on similar topics.

Keep talking

We’re all in this mess together, we’ll have highs and we’ll probably have some extreme lows but the most important thing to do is to keep talking.

If you’re a business owner I’m more than happy to have a chat with you whether it be around how to support you with your marketing and PR during this current challenge, even if that is just some friendly advice.

But more importantly, if you’re just in need of a friendly ear to listen to or answer some of your concerns I am here.