Six things you can do now to help prepare your business for a challenge or crisis:
Review your Issues and Crisis Communications plans. The reality is that few of those plans are probably ready for COVID-19 and its implications. Are your communications team members resourced and supported to help get your messages out there (and is there a work-from-home capability)? If you don’t have a crisis and issues management plan you need to develop one like, yesterday!
Increase communications with your customers and staff. Now is not the time to go quiet. It’s time to keep in touch with customers and staff and keep them updated so they can be confident of your approach and stance. A great example of proactive thinking around this came from Qantas last week, when they demonstrated leadership around the approaches their team were adopting to cut back on costs, and keep their staff employed throughout this difficult time.
Stay up-to-date and think ahead, across your touch points. It’s easy to get caught up in the panic of ‘now’, but by staying up-to-date from a few reliable sources, and thinking ahead about how these issues might impact your business or your customers, you can become a leader rather than a follower. Follow NSW Health or the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the latest accurate information on COVID-19. Compare this information with your customer and staff movements and think ahead about some of the implications. (For example: personal leave implications, non-contact deliveries, customer payment terms, event & travel cancellations).
Tap into your empathy. It’s important to get your tone right. When challenges face a business, it can be hard to put that worry aside, and think of your team and customers. Everybody is feeling nervous, so what are the actual steps that you and your business can take to help ease some of the stress that your customers or staff might be feeling? If you’re preparing communications, plan to take a step back at the end, and review your messages as if you were a customer or staff member. Identify a team member who has high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) to act as a second pair of eyes for any outgoing customer or staff messages.
Lead by Example. Your senior leadership team sets the tone of your response during an issue. Showing empathy and communicating a forward-thinking approach, can help maintain a level of professionalism, and positively shape your customers’ and employees’ perceptions of your business.
Pivot. It’s time to think outside the square. Replace face-to-face meeting and gatherings with virtual ones, consider evolving your work procedures to find a way around current restrictions. Use technology to your advantage and embrace the change.