A Crisis PR Plan for Your Small Business During the COVID-19 Outbreak
The COVID-19 crisis has presented businesses of all sizes with a host of new and unprecedented challenges – remote work, loss of childcare services, mandatory cancellations and shutdowns, travel restrictions, low supply of housecleaning goods, non-perishable foods, and toiletries – and that’s just the short list!
As updates around the virus continues to unfold, we’re here to help businesses with their ongoing crisis communications plans. Here is how you can ease anxiety among employees, customers, and vendors during these uncertain times.
Engage and Empower Employees First
Employees are the heartbeat of any company – big or small – and are your most critical asset during a crisis. Addressing employees’ concerns first and ensuring there is frequent and helpful information being passed to them is the number one way to curb anxiety, stop the spread of misinformation, and maintain morale.
As we’ve seen with COVID-19, misinformation from social media, family and friends is a surefire way to halt productivity during a time of crisis. As such, it’s critical that companies act quickly and form an internal crisis communications team in charge of sending out frequent company updates, access to helpful resources, and ongoing support for employees impacted by the crisis.
Your company’s internal crisis communications protocol should include:
- Pre-approved messaging that employees can share externally to customers and vendors
- Daily or bi-weekly emails that address ongoing changes, updates, and company policies throughout the COVID-19 outbreak
- An employee-only support line, email, or FAQ to address frequent concerns and questions
- Messaging from the company president or CEO to ease fears and concerns around employment and new protocols
- Easy access to technological tools and resources for work-from-home employees to continue doing business
- Engage employees in a virtual Town Hall with the leadership team to ask questions and provide community support
While this is not an exhaustive list, businesses of any size can begin implementing these steps right away into their internal communications plan.
Convert Customers into Loyal Fans with Immediate Action
While it seems obvious that companies connect and properly communicate with their customers during this time, how to do it right is a matter of knowing your customers well and addressing their most immediate fears and concerns.
Fitness boutiques and gyms across the nation recently took to social media and newsletters to address their customers worst fears and outlined critical steps to ensure the cleanliness of their facilities are being met. Commercial gyms cut classroom capacity in half and tripled the amount of cleaning throughout their gyms. Other boutique studios closed their doors and began offering on-demand classes instead. Fitness instructors jumped to social media for free, virtual fitness classes their followers could do from home. This is a great example of companies of all shapes and sizes addressing customers’ immediate fears and concerns while pivoting quickly to meet demand for their products and services.
As coronavirus fears spread and government mandated restrictions and shutdowns continue, acting and communicating quickly and meeting customers where they are – home or social media – is essential to turning customers into loyal fans.
Connect with Vendors with Compassion
The COVID-19 crisis has introduced businesses and their vendors with quite a dilemma. On one hand, vendors are critical to business operations and meeting customer demand for products and services. On the other hand, low supply and loss of revenue for many organizations may mean less money is available to fulfill orders and pay vendors for their goods and services.
The relationship with your vendor is essential for the health of your business, which may mean negotiating or temporarily pausing business during a time of crisis. Bear in mind that doing so puts a strain on vendors as well, which is why approaching these conversations with compassion and empathy is important. What COVID-19 has shown us is that now is the time to work together and enable each other to continue operations, even if it’s on a temporary and scaled down basis.
Throughout KCD PR’s 11-year history, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses tackle their crisis communications both internally and externally with great success.