Seven Communications Tips for a Virus Outbreak

Mar 6, 2020 | Public Relations

As concerns and the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, continues to rise, many organizations are going into crisis mode and bracing for operational impacts.

While your company may be considering remote work policies and canceling events to reduce the health risks associated with physical contact, Gavin highly recommends that you also take time to evaluate your communications strategy to internal and external audiences.

How you manage communications in a crisis, or even an issue that may elevate to a crisis, may be a trust-building opportunity with your employees, customers and stakeholders.

Stay ahead and start with our tips below.

Here are seven essential crisis communications tips to help your team navigate any public health outbreak and productively stave off the potential of negative publicity.

  • Assess before you react: Don’t be too quick to respond to a public health issue that has yet to reach your doorstep or is pending factual confirmation. Clearly assess the situation and review the facts from government and local health organizations. This will help your team better understand your exposure risks and develop appropriate responses to your employees, customers and other partners. While assessing, be sure to communicate with your internal teams on your evaluation process so they are clear on your operational protocols for the decision-making process to keep your community safe. Employees and customers find comfort in knowing you have a plan.
  • Centralize the message: Part of your crisis communications strategy should include establishing a chain of command for approval of planned communications and how that messaging will be distributed through a designated media spokesperson or core crisis management team. Include specific steps that will be taken to reduce internal and external confusion.
  • Anticipate and respond concisely: Develop a series of concise messages that answer anticipated questions about the outbreak, including how operations could be disrupted by a public health event, and respond quickly. Taking control of the communications about the situation will position your team as the trusted source for information and help safeguard against misinformation spreading.
  • Be transparent: It is important to leverage your website and social media channels to release public statements from organizational leadership. Your own media assets can serve as a go-to source for facts for internal and external audiences, including journalists seeking the latest information about local outbreak impacts.
  • Set expectations: Ongoing communication updates will be expected in an outbreak situation. Be sure to establish communication expectations early to avoid constant questions asking when more information will be released. This will help your team be more efficient during an outbreak situation.
  • Remain calm: Stay focused, determined and willing to navigate local impacts from an outbreak. To help your team do that, we also would advise getting some outside advice from an experienced crisis communications firm.
  • Prepare for the next outbreak now: The best advice we can offer is prepare in advance for the next outbreak today. Don’t wait to react to another public health event or crisis situation. Depending on your industry, you may want to assemble a crisis response team comprised of corporate, legal, customer service and marketing professionals to develop proactive and reactive crisis communications plans.

As always, our team recommends that you have a crisis communications plan in place that is vetted throughout the year. A plan keeps you moving swiftly. And, in a crisis, factual timeliness is next to godliness.

We are here to assist with your crisis communications and public relations needs? Talk to Gavin today.