President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster and with many areas of life being impacted as the virus spreads, it also presents challenges for many business owners.

Businesses will likely feel the effect of COVID-19 on their bottom line, particularly when employees and clients self-isolate or, as has been seen in other countries, put under quarantine. In a crisis situation it is even more important that you have a communications strategy in place, and that you communicate regularly with your team members, clients and stakeholders in a calm and measured brand voice.

To help your business prepare for COVID-19 and ensure the safety of your employees and clients, we recommend the following steps that you should take.

UPDATE YOUR CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN

If you don’t have a crisis communications plan in place – this is your first step. If you have one, it’s important to review it with your team, to ensure that it is sufficient.

With any crisis plan, you need to ensure that there is a clear chain of command. It’s equally important that you have a plan B, in the event that key decision makers are unable to participate in the process.

Include these items in your plan:

  • Chain of command for decision making related to closures
  • Chain of command for fielding media inquiries
  • Phone numbers for all team members and key stakeholders
  • Phone numbers for your local health department
  • Work-from-home policies
  • Holding statements for addressing coronavirus exposure

When reviewing your plan, include information about how work will continue if staff members have to work from home. Not only will these steps help reduce confusion, but it could limit the potential of an infected employee coming to work.

With your holding statement, it’s important to be prepared early, as this will enable you to move quickly and share essential information with stakeholders if your business is directly impacted by COVID-19.

All businesses need a crisis communications plan. If you do not have one or yours needs to be updated, contact Stratitude today.

COMMUNICATE YOUR PLAN

To avoid panic and anxiety, you need to ensure that everyone involved knows what to do when the plan is initiated.

We recommend that you consider these steps:

  • Identify potential scenarios that could play out and how you would handle them
  • Cross-train employees to execute the plan in the event that key team members are unavailable
  • Set daily meetings to briefly discuss any new developments or changes to your communications plan
  • Clarify your media policy in order to not spread misinformation
  • Identify spokespeople and notify employees who to refer media inquiries to

CREATE A DEDICATED WEBPAGE

The situation could change overnight, which is why your business needs to stay on top of the latest information. Create a dedicated webpage with updates and the latest information, and have a banner or pop-up on your homepage that links to this webpage.

Key information to include:

  • A business statement to clarify that the situation may change rapidly and that your business will evaluate regularly when information is available and update the page with the best course of action
  • Whether or not your employees or locations have been exposed to the virus.
  • Details about your contingency plans
  • Preventative measures that you have implemented
  • Links to reliable sources such as the World Health Organization and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases
  • Contact information for your primary media spokesperson and crisis management team

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

South Africa’s president addressed the nation on 15th March 2020. Before your employees feel uncertain or worried, it’s important that you communicate how your business plans to respond to COVID-19.

There will still be details that the business needs to iron out – such as whether or not employees can work from home – but it is key that you communicate quickly and thoroughly, to allay their fears and show that you have a plan in place.

Include these points in your communication:

EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

Considering how COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, it is likely that businesses in South Africa will be affected in the near future. We recommend that you begin communicating with your clients and external stakeholders, to reassure them that you are aware of the situation and have contingency plans in place to address the situation, should your business be directly impacted.

We recommend that you send a statement about how you are prioritising employee and client safety, are closely monitoring the situation and include details about the preventative measures your business has undertaken. You should also include a link to your dedicated webpage, where clients and stakeholders can get the latest information about your response.

FOR HELP WITH CORONAVIRUS CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS, CONTACT STRATITUDE TO HELP YOUR BUSINESS.