Tips for COVID-19 Comms
It seemed far away at first, but the novel coronavirus is now sweeping through the U.S. and the rest of the world, bringing with it sprawling change.
Recent news has been dominated by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Prevalence of the virus proliferated through Asia and Europe, with scientists struggling to stay ahead of its incubation period, virality, and devastating symptoms. Eventually, coronavirus made its way to the States. Its arrival and rapid spread heightened focus on social distancing (or self-isolating) by closing down schools, migrating to digital teaching, and working from home. Events of all sizes are being canceled or postponed—even restaurants, bars, and gyms are temporarily closing—with the goal to stop the spread of the virus.
As communicators, we pride ourselves on always having a plan ready when a crisis arises, no matter what that may be. And yet, this pandemic has shown that no matter how prepared we think we are, there will always be curveballs along the way. With confirmed cases growing, sometimes even doubling by the day, organizations are pushing for more safety precautions; and with that comes the need to transparently and clearly communicate with the public.
With the safety of our clients, our community, and the entire world at the top of minds, our goal is to help provide appropriate and timely responses to keep everyone healthy and informed.
Knowing that no organization will be immune to the COVID-19 outbreak, KPS3 is focused on taking a leading role in helping our clients adapt their responses to their corresponding audiences, all while keeping the facts at the forefront. As we work from home, develop next steps, set up check-ins with our clients, and motivate each other with positive Slack messages.
Here’s an inside scoop at our playbook on how to communicate in the time of COVID-19.
Adapting to Change
We're certainly navigating through tough times. But the reassuring news is that none of us is navigating alone. An outbreak of this magnitude gives no advantage to anyone. At KPS3, we have both local and national clients across a variety of industries that must be ahead of the curve, always. Not only are they located across the map, but they vary in the services they provide and the communities they serve.
Thinking about our clients’ operational processes and communications approaches has never been more important. We're advising on everything from swift operational protocols, internal messaging, external communications, and crisis planning and contingencies to constantly monitoring the media, knowing that things can evolve and change very rapidly.
Given the severity of the outbreak, we’ve migrated from in-person communications and check-ins to mainly virtual conference meetings. Our team members can work from home—not just during the pandemic—but full-time. We believe that you don’t have to be in the office every day to get things done right.
However, this is the first time we are holding all of our client meetings with appropriate social distancing. Slack has always been one of our favorite apps, and it makes it easy (and fun) to stay in touch with each other whether we’re in or out of the office. This, in addition to all that Google Suite has to offer, has made this transition far easier for us all.
Prepare, Don’t Panic
The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Nevada Governor's Office said it best on the Nevada Health Response: COVID-19 website (a website that KPS3 assisted them with). The headline says: Prepare, Don’t Panic.
As fear levels are accumulating and escalating, impacting our entire world, this is easier to say than do at times. During these circumstances, communications professionals are there to guide leadership on providing factually based answers, solutions and guidelines. Preparing statements and communiques for employees, the media, social followers and stakeholders are critical in an open, transparent manner to help mitigate fear and help people prepare with the facts. It’s crucial to be ethically transparent in times like these. We do this every day, but it’s more important now than ever before.
Communication is Key
To avoid mixed messages, one of our main priorities is to stay updated with the most current news in the industries and the various communities our clients serve. We want to continue sharing the positive stories of clients while keeping both their staff and the public safe. We advise our clients based on official statements from trusted organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as local, regional, and national officials.
KPS3 is committed to ensuring that our clients can provide factual information to their stakeholders, shift their communications focus if necessary and be up-to-date on ever-evolving information.
We also want to lift our clients, our community and each other up in this stressful and uncertain time. We all must do our best to follow the news and be informed, but none of us know exactly what will come next in this pandemic. We do know that we must work together, support one another, and be mindful and empathetic to others’ situations.
The words “calm,” “consistent," and “communicative” are great adjectives to describe the intent of your communications to help your organization's best interests. And remember, responding to coronavirus requires us to lead with empathy and compassion as much as with our professional skills.