Tag Archives: coronavirus

Authentic Communications: Rethinking What We Say During the Pandemic

The past few weeks have created quite a disruption, but far and away the question we’ve been asked the most is: “Should I still be sending regular communications out to my key stakeholders?”  

The answer is “yes,” but with a caveat. This means you absolutely can and should communicate with your various audiences, but what you say, how, when, and how often you say it must be considered through an entirely different lens than that of just a few weeks ago. This applies to internal audiences, who need an up-to-the-minute understanding of what’s expected of them, and external audiences, who can and should be reminded of your presence, actions, offerings, contribution, and encouraging thoughts 

During this time of uncertainty, you can’t afford to go dark with anyone who matters to your business, whether employeescustomers, investors, supporters, patients, or other stakeholders. Now, though, you must talk with them on a new timetable and in a much more direct, yet nuanced, voice 

Far and away, the best thing to do throughout is to ask yourself: How do I want people to communicate with me during this challenging time? One way to approach this is to think in terms of three areas: 1) Content 2) Context, and 3) Timing 

1.Content: Would you want to read it? 

A colleague mentioned how annoyed he was that so many companies were incorporating coronavirus messaging into their email marketing campaigns yet offered nothing helpful or relevant. The next time you consider sending an inappropriate email to a prospective or existing client, think twice 

The best litmus test for your CRM and other communiques is the mirror. Before you send something out, ask yourself if it would benefit you if you were on the receiving end. Would you find it helpful and relevant, or just a waste of your time? Is it authentic or does it smack of opportunism? Does it contain information so useful that you would actually want to share it with someone? If you can answer yes to most or all of those questions, send it. 

Sometimes the most useful content is something that is counterintuitive to what you might normally expect to receive. For example, inspirational quotes can be helpful in times of crisis and stressA genuine, shared sentiment from one professional to another is authenticNow is the time to reflect and reach out with genuine concern and an attitude of service.    

2.Context: We all know we’re in a coronavirus pandemic! 

How many emails have you gotten in the past week that started with something like, “Coronavirus, the deadly international pandemic, has recently brought business to a halt …” or, “In this time of unprecedented disruption caused by the deadly COVID-19 virus…”  

If your answer is “too many!” you’re not alone! We all know what happened, so there’s no need to start every email with it. Rather, begin with something that is relevant to the readerFor example, a computer networking company might start with: “Best tech tools for working at home during the pandemic.” Or, if you are a nonprofit, consider an approach like this: “4 Ways to Make an Impact and Help Others During the COVID-19 Crisis.” This is useful information that may help people and organizations during this difficult time.   

As we recently shared in an article on internal crisis communications on O’Dwyer’s, first and foremost employees need to know where they stand–every single day. Be clear and consistent, and above all else don’t keep them guessing. It all comes back to what you would want to experience. The same holds true with such key stakeholders as customers, students, supporters, investors, patients, and distributors. Just because in-person meetings and travel have halted doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep communications strong 

Over the past few weeks, how many conference calls and meetings have begun by talking about the bad news? Too many. Start by saying you hope everyone is doing okay, and that you’d like to start with the business agenda and hold off any conversation about coronavirus until the end of the meeting. Otherwise, you stand to spend the first 10-15 minutes not focusing on why you are all there in the first place.   

3.Timing: Be timely, or better yet, get there ahead of time. 

These days, with sheltering in place, time moves to its own strange beatit’s easy to forget whether it’s Tuesday or Thursday and if a call is at 2PM or 4PM. Days blur and what was true an hour ago can already have been replaced by new information–or misinformation. If you want to build a positive, productive relationship with your audience, communicate with them in real time, and look ahead, not back. What happened yesterday can seem like week ago, and no one wants to dwell on the past in this new reality. They want hope. 

As with any unexpected situation or crisis, if you look closely enough, you’ll find ways to be of service. You’ll unearth viable avenues to be an integral part of the conversationand the solution. Now, with weekdays blurring into weekends, we are no longer bound by when is a “good time” to send a social post or email campaign. The same thing applies to PR. Previously, our experience demonstrated that the best time to send a news release or distribute it on the wire was first thing in the morning on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Over the past two weeks, we’ve gotten unprecedented pickup in late afternoons and on weekends. This is due to the fact that we are presently on a 24/7/365 news cycle.  

It is impossible to predict the future, even what will happen in the coming weeks, but to remain relevant, it’s critical to plan and execute strategic communications. Now more than ever, timelines should be developed and adhered toTiming has been altered, but you can still create a comms. roadmap of where you are and where you want to go 

If your organization needs help with crisis communications, PR, issues managementor COVID-19 communications strategy, contact Chris Rosica at PR@rosica.com or call (201) 806-6543 x 202. 

Internal Coronavirus Communication Strategies

Given the new business reality, agency President Chris Rosica outlines 7 Essential Internal Communication Strategies for dealing with the coronavirus crisis.  

His seven internal comms. imperatives include: 

  1. Internal Communications First Communicate with your team frequently and proactively.  
  2. Lead With Candor  In times of crisis, as with COVID-19, leaders and managers must be forthcoming and foster an environment of open communication.  
  3. Embrace  &  Communicate a “Never Give Up” AttitudePerseverance is required to maintain team spirit. This spirit can make or break a company, institution, or nonprofit. Make “never give up” your mantra. 
  4. Encourage Innovation Now is the time to reward creativity and encourage managers and staff to create new business opportunities. Your top people will align with this call to action.  
  5. Now’s the Time To Bolster Technology – The new work-from-home ecosystem warrants organizations do all they can to ensure connectivity and productivity. 
  6. Avoid Micromanaging, But Be Sure To Manage  Have managers connect with employees daily or even multiple times each day. Understand their challenges, where they need training and support, and how you can best support the team. 
  7. Adjust Internal Comms as RequiredTweak internal communications to ensure you remain relevant, supportive, and of optimal service to your customers.  

Not only do these practices help your staffbut maximize your chances of success.  

To read the entire article on O’Dwyer’s, please visit 7 Essential Internal Coronavirus Communications Practices.

Washington Examiner Shares Chris Rosica’s View on Storytelling in Times of Crisis

In yesterday’s Washington Examiner, COVID-19 crisis communications expert Chris Rosica was asked to comment on Dr. Deborah Birx’s story delivered at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing. Dr. Birx shared her grandmother’s heart-wrenching story and a plea not to be the person who introduces the virus to a vulnerable person. According to Washington Examiner reporter Rob Crilly, Dr. Birx said, in reference to the Spanish flu epidemic, that her “grandmother Leah lived with a lifetime of guilt after bringing flu home from school, she said.”  

In the article, Crilly states: “Chris Rosica, a crisis communications expert, said storytelling made people tune in, remember the message, and, most importantly, share it. Birx, he said, had a powerful ability to connect with her audience.” Rosica added, “When it comes to storytelling, personal stories are often the most effective ways to communicateThey not only suck people in, but there’s also an emotional element beyond the facts and the science.” 


To view the entire story click here https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/immunologist-mother-granddaughter-how-dr-deborah-birx-is-humanizing-the-coronavirus-pandemic. 

Best Practices for Coronavirus Communications & Preparedness  – By Chris Rosica

On March 11, 2020, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) officially reached pandemic status, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), means the “worldwide spread of a new disease.”

Regardless of whether you are a school, nonprofit, Integrated Delivery Network (IDN), corporation, transportation provider, municipality, NGO, or other entity, it is vital to know the facts and communicate proactively with all stakeholders-using clear, compassionate, and understandable messages. This not only demonstrates leadership but reduces everyone’s stress levels and instills trust among key stakeholders.

In times of crisis, you must prepare operationally. At the same time, you must prepare to effectively communicate as well. These fundamentals will guide you in successfully planning and communicating during this time of heightened public concern:

  1. Swiftly Establish Operational Protocols & Procedures

The first step is to create a Coronavirus Crisis Team. This should consist of such senior executives as CEO, SVP of HR, SVP of Communications, COO, CMO, CFO, CTO, CISO, GM, and department heads (e.g., sales, facilities, supply chain, etc.). This team should meet and establish strategic imperatives, communication protocols, and a meeting rhythm.

For many organizations, the bulk of the work required centers on establishing business continuity and human resource policies for coronavirus. For others that serve the public, the focus should be public safety, policy, and clear, thorough communications.

There is a great deal to determine from an organizational perspective. Depending on your organizational structure, your Crisis Team will want to discuss and agree on such policies and systems as:

  • Continuity – This is the most critical piece as the livelihood of workers depends on the livelihood of the organization. Proper planning ensures you’ll be able to serve your students, patients, constituents, customers, consumers, and other stakeholders—even if you cannot open your facility, company, store, school, restaurant, or operation’s doors. This means getting creative and using the Internet to promote internal collaboration and better serve your publics. If appropriate, telemedicine, at-home instruction, and home-delivery options should be explored and implemented. In this time of adaptation, it’s imperative to make sure your people understand their roles and your expectations in the new service/product delivery structure.
  • Creating a Safer Workplace – If an employee has symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, or fever, immediately encourage them to self-quarantine and seek medical attention to be tested for coronavirus. In addition: actively encourage sick employees to stay home and remain in contact with their doctors—and implement rigorous environmental cleaning protocols.
  • Reporting Structure – Ask employees to alert HR if they’ve tested positive for coronavirus (or if a family member or friend has). This should immediately trigger internal procedures and communications to inform and guide stakeholders (keeping names and details strictly confidential). Healthcare providers should report COVID-19 cases to their local or state department of health (DOH), which, in turn, informs the CDC. According to the CDC: “Persons who are placed under active monitoring or facilitated self-monitoring should follow instructions provided by their local health department or occupational health professionals, as appropriate.” As we know, this includes a two-week quarantine period.
  • Sick time – Given the spread of coronavirus, you may have to modify this policy and add a section for pandemics and epidemics. This is particularly true when a longer quarantine period is being recommended by the medical community, WHO, and CDC.
  • Technology – Whether or not you are providing laptops, tablets, or other mobile devices to employees, you will want to establish email and social media policies surrounding this or any other pandemic (update your social policy and, if you don’t have one, create one—and include language on epidemics and pandemics). Remind team members that they should take precautions and avoid at all costs clicking on links in emails as there are a flood of phishing scams, many of which use coronavirus scare tactics. Should they need information regarding the pandemic beyond what you will be providing, they should seek guidance only from the CDC, WHO, and local DOH websites. They should avoid seeking advice given on social media channels altogether.
  • Tracking COVID-19 – One member of the Crisis Team should be responsible for monitoring the CDC and WHO throughout the day for any new alerts, updates, or guidelines. This information will be disseminated to internal stakeholders and, in some instances, shared with the external stakeholders outlined in #2, below.
  • Travel – To protect the workforce and the public, guidelines and policies surrounding travel must be established and followed for all employees. A European travel ban was put into effect by President Trump on the evening of March 11, 2020. See the WHO website for travel advice.
  • Work-from-home – You’ll also want to update this policy and communicate what’s expected from team members and what they can expect of you—letting them know upfront that the situation is fluid and may change based on the pandemic’s trajectory and the CDC’s guidance.
  1. Communicate Internally with Clarity & Detailed Information

In times of a public health crisis, communication and coordination are essential. Glen Nowak, director of the Center for Health & Risk Communication at the University of Georgia and former director of media relations at CDC says it is crucial to eliminate mixed messaging. Nowak says this confusion can be problematic “because it communicates that people who are providing guidance aren’t on the same page.”

Successful communications start with employees and internal stakeholders. With coronavirus, it is no different. This means communicating—ongoing—with stakeholders (patients, staff, partners, customers, board of directors, investors, suppliers, local government, and others) about the pandemic—how it’s impacting the organization and those you serve.

Now is the time for CEOs and top executive to communicate with employees and stakeholders and reassure them by stating the steps the organization is taking. He/she should record an organic (not highly produced) 60-second video—on a current model smart phone­—describing the current state of affairs, steps being taken (to disinfect surfaces and protect people), what is planned next and why. This can supplement such written communications as direct mail pieces, emails, texts, and social posts. Then, have another C-level executive communicate regularly and as things progress. Chief executives should remain visible and communicate regularly to bolster confidence.

Internal communications should include but not be limited to:

  • Your concern and commitments.
  • Updated policies and procedures, with an emphasis on business continuity. This puts people at ease and demonstrates strong management.
  • Customer or public communiqués regarding continuity, public policy, protective measures, and the solutions you are implementing. This should include how to properly disinfect hard surfaces (computers and technology, office furniture, desktops, etc.) that can transmit the virus.
  • Frequent updates from credible sources.
  1. Create a Crisis Communications Scenario for Coronavirus

A crisis is an event that causes a significant threat to operations or image and that can escalate if not handled properly. Crises can cause severe reputational damage and deplete employee morale, so it is important to implement a plan ahead of time (or quickly if you do not have one in place). This includes preparing pre-approved messaging for specific situations that may arise.

Ultimately, the course of action for crisis planning depends on the type of organization you work for. Brainstorming the top communications scenarios your organization should prepare for is a good place to start.

This should be an adjunct to your existing crisis plan and include such elements as:

  • What happens when a confirmed case is established in your organization
    • Protocols, so all staff are immediately reminded about the company’s policies and procedures and given next steps
      • What measures you’ll implement logistically/operationally
    • Where staff may be working from and during what time frame, logistics around departmental and company-wide communications and “meetings,” reporting, client relations, technology support, and other considerations
    • Developing social posts, communiqués, and email copy/templates —in advance. These can be updated as circumstances unfold
    • What disinfecting procedures should be utilized
  • How your facility may be compromised and what steps you’re taking to address this (there may be several crisis scenarios that fall under this category)
  • Steps to take and communiqués that outline what happens if your chief executive or other C-level executives are infected
  • What to do if your facility or staff are blamed for infecting others for negligence
  1. Be Prepared for Media Inquiries

It is imperative to be prepared for media inquiries, which require a number of critical steps, including anticipating difficult questions; developing factual messaging that conveys empathy, transparency, and concern; establishing and media training a company spokesperson; and monitoring social and other media commentary.

  1. Try to Remain Calm & Stay Current on the Facts

As of March 30, 2020, there were 143,532 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States with 741,030 globally, impacting public health, mental health, businesses of all kinds and sizes, and the economy. During this time when many questions arise, it is imperative to stick with the facts. Visit the CDC website for regular updates www.cdc.gov. 

During times of crisis, stakeholders will rely on your organization’s leadership to provide answers, solutions, and guidelines to follow. Ahead of the crisis, prepare statements/communiqués for employees, social followers, and the stakeholders we’ve discussed, including the media.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to maintain open, transparent communication with your stakeholders and the community. People panic when they feel a lack of control, and if you are consistent, calming, and communicative, you will be supporting those who matter most and protecting your organization’s best interests.

If your organization needs help with coronavirus PR and crisis communications, contact Chris Rosica at PR@rosica.com or call (201) 843-5600 x 202.