Pandemic Crisis – Get Your Communication House in Order

The Coronavirus pandemic has been declared. Information, disinformation, news and alerts are moving at the speed of social media. The debate about whether or not a crisis is imminent has passed. 

For any organisation, communication is critical right now. If you are going to protect the health and wellbeing of your employees, retain the trust of your clients, preserve your business and be part of the solution, get your communication house in order.  

  1. Centralise authority. Put a communication team or resources in place, with a clear hierarchy and approval process. Empower this team with whatever authority they might need. 
  2. Centralise your communication medium. Alert your audience through the normal channels but drag their eyes and ears to your message on a central point, usually a corporate website. This ensures that messages will compound through the crisis. 
  3. Act with speed. Disinformation moves faster than information. 
  4. Be clear and concise in your messages. Limit them to the facts. And don’t speculate. 
  5. Set out time frames when you can. If you can’t, set a time frame for when you will be communicating again, even if you know you won’t have all the answers.
  6. Be frequent in your communication. In a crisis, reassurance comes through repetition and presence. 
  7. Appoint a spokesperson. They should be as senior as possible. 
  8. Expect media attention. And respect it. They are, after all, doing their job, also in extraordinary circumstances.
  9. Be conscious of how you communicate, not just what you communicate. Emotions are much more elevated in a crisis and calm, methodical, respectful communicators are reassuring in this environment.
  10. Continue to monitor and plan, even after the hysteria dies down. Too much planning is not enough. 

Mar 13, 2020

About the author

Justin Kirkwood

GAICD, MIntS Syd., BA (Comm)

Justin Kirkwood has more than 30 years’ corporate relations advisory experience
specialising in communication and reputation risk management.