It’s tempting to think James Bond, dentists, car makers and Apple AirPods have nothing in common.
But they do.
They’ve all been impacted by the coronavirus crisis, according to the Daily Mail last month.
The diverse ways they’ve been affected sends a warning to any and every organisation.
The knock-on effect of coronavirus – or COVID-19 – can hit anything from audience numbers to supply chains, to healthcare workers’ ability to practise.
That means that whether you’re a cinema chain hit by falling attendance figures – because people don’t want to gather in large groups – or a manufacturer reliant on component parts from a factory that’s been forced to shut, or a small school that’s had to close after pupils returned from an area now in lockdown, you’re suddenly a lot more interesting to the media.
And that might not be just your domestic media, but possibly journalists with an international reach.
So communicating swiftly, accurately and professionally is potentially key to the long-term effect of the virus’s impact on your company or organisation.
At this point it might be tempting to look away – or click away – but don’t, because it’s precisely the notion that this could be the biggest crisis management issue facing any organisation of any size, that we should all sit up and listen.
In a time of great uncertainty one thing is certain: it’s not a time for panic or burying the corporate head in the sand.
Indeed, good crisis media management is the antithesis of that.
What’s needed are cool heads and calm preparation.
The World Health Organisation has said we are now in “uncharted territory”, so surely this is the time for every organisation to consider how it would respond if it found itself right at the heart of this crisis, because we should be in no doubt: this is a crisis like no other.
To highlight just a few factors why…
- it is extremely unpredictable on many levels;
- there are still so many “unknowns” that even the smartest experts cannot answer;
- it is a very fluid and fast-changing situation that demands an equally swift response;
- it can impact organisations in so many diverse ways, from staff well-being to employment rights, staff travel, supply chains and production, to name just a handful;
- it has a global reach – there probably isn’t a radio station or TV channel in the world that’s not mentioned the virus
- social media is playing an unprecedented role in disseminating information…and mis-information.
But although possibly very frightening, none of that should paralyse an organisation; instead, the smart ones will be getting to grips with the “what ifs…” and asking themselves key questions, including: “If the coronavirus directly impacts us and the media then come calling…”
- who should speak to them? (It might not be the CEO or Chair);
- which external agencies should we be informing at key points?
- who should we ultimately be trying to reach through our crisis communications? (For example, stakeholders, staff, customers, investors?);
- what should we be saying? (Expressing concern, giving out helpline numbers, instructions to customers or staff, perhaps a reference to future updates…?)
The key point to remember in any crisis – but especially one that can be so apparently indiscriminate, so serious and so unpredictable in scale and impact – is to be prepared to say something to the media.
If not, they will simply look elsewhere to fill the news vacuum, and with something like the coronavirus, where even the brightest brains are baffled when it comes to answering what would normally be considered basic questions (“Why…How?…When?…What?”), that might just push any hope of recovery beyond reach.
If you need help with preparing your communications response to the coronavirus, please get in touch.