Coronavirus Communication Keys

Every organization in the world is struggling with how to communicate both internally and externally in the wake of coronavirus. Here at ColdSpark, we’ve seen the good and the bad from companies, non-profits, and other organizations. We pulled together a few hints and tips to help you weather the storm.

Internal Communications

  • Talk regularly: It is absolutely crucial that you communicate regularly with your internal team about the crisis. This can take the form of emails, conference calls, updates in internal systems like Slack, or pigeon carrier — just make sure the lines of communication are open, and they go both ways.
  • Be clear: Don’t talk to your team members in legalese or corporate speak. Make sure you are clear about how the organization is handling the crisis, what they can expect from you, and what you expect from them.
  • Be honest: There is no point in sugarcoating challenges. Don’t cause unnecessary panic, but you should be upfront about the virus’ impact on the business, including reduced workload and possible impacts. Employees aren’t stupid; they can smell a cover-up from a mile away.
  • Be compassionate: People are going through a difficult time and are understandably nervous. Be nice.

External Communications

  • Be understanding: Your clients, vendors, and others are all going through a tough time in this new world. Some are struggling to keep staff on payroll. Some are working from home while fending off one to four screaming kids at any given moment. Some may be sick or worried about sick relatives. Any external communication, particularly with clients, should start from a place that takes their concerns to heart and communicates that we’re all in this together.
  • Don’t be a “jagoff:” If you don’t speak Pittsburghese, this basically means don’t be a jerk. We’ve all seen companies treat clients and vendors cruelly with no regard for the challenges people are facing (ahem… Michael Bloomberg). When this is all over, people will remember that you kicked them when they were down. Plus, you might just burn in hell.
  • Be clear and set reasonable expectations: The nature of remote work, closed shops, and state lockdowns will change how fast work gets done — if it can get done at all. Be clear about these changes and communicate early with clients and vendors on how things will change. What may have taken a day or two before may take a week. Let clients know and set those expectations early.
  • Be flexible: The new world we live in is changing rapidly. State-by-state lockdowns happen at a moment’s notice. Doctor appointments, cranky kids, economic disruption — all these things will upset the best-laid plans. Be flexible and communicate that flexibility to those around you.

Other To-Dos:

  • Make a plan b and c and d and z: We’ve all seen how quickly the situation can change. Every company should have a back-up plan for potential changes or worst-case scenarios, both internally and for clients. Literally, sit down and make a list of possible outcomes. What if we lose 25 percent of our revenue? What if half our staff gets sick? What if zombies take over the earth? Don’t dismiss risks because they seem improbable; assume the improbable is probable. Okay, maybe not the zombies, but everything else.
  • Investigate options: Many companies and vendors are offering options to deal with the extenuating circumstances, from insurance companies who will keep laid-off employees insured to whatever safety-nets Congress ends up passing. Call your vendors, stay on top of the changes to the law, and communicate these benefits to staff and clients where applicable.
  • Find ways to help: The world is hurting, but there are big and small ways people can help, from donating to food banks, to sewing masks for hospitals (if you’re not all thumbs), to offering to deliver food to senior citizens. It’s going to be rough, but we can all do our part to make life a little easier.

Have you seen good or bad examples? Share them with us on our social channels or email us at [email protected]. Do you or your organization need communications help in these times? We’d love to talk to you more about it. Email us at [email protected].