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Lessons from COVID-19

Lessons from COVID-19

By Paula Anderson

Planning for a crisis is not optional; it is mandatory for small businesses and entrepreneurs who may experience a temporary loss of revenue or operations. COVID-19 revealed a lot of opportunities for businesses to consider when everything is going well. The disruption halted every industry except food services, healthcare, postal services and media companies.

Many have defined COVID-19 as healthcare and economic crises. The government, corporations, schools, universities, restaurants and live events were impacted. As a result, a new term was added to our vocabulary – “social distancing.”  The shutdown of our economy created uncertainty and instability within businesses. Some businesses were able to adapt with little to no disruption whereas a lot of businesses were scrambling trying to figure out the next move.

When issues or crises arise, it is important to have a Crisis Communication Plan (CCP) in place. A Crisis Communication Plan consists of the following:

  • Crisis Communication Plan
  • Crisis Communication Team
  • Communication Channels
  • Strategies
  • Evaluation Measures

An effective Crisis Communication Plan will outline the steps that will be taken in the event of a crisis. Depending on the crisis type, the plan may vary due to circumstances. It serves as a guide to help with strategic thinking and how to involve the correct people.

The Crisis Communication Team includes the following people: crisis manager, communication spokesperson, legal team, social media manager, public relations department, media advisors and human resources.

Each of these individuals play a key role in executing the CCP. Assigned tasks and responsibilities will be given at various stages in the CCP.

One of the most important aspects of a CCP is communication to stakeholders, employees and community supporters. Stakeholders are internal and external individuals who have a vested interest in the company or organization. 

During COVID-19, the event planning industry was disrupted and numerous live events had to be cancelled, postponed or offered virtually. 

Companies, organizations and event planners relied on Eventbrite, an online ticketing company, to promote and collect money for events. Eventbrite responded immediately to the crisis and began communicating with event planners and goers early on through emails, blogs and social media platforms.  

Choosing the correct communication platform is important for businesses. Communicate based on the channel that is best for your stakeholders. Traditional media, social media, a company website and emails are all appropriate channels. When you communicate with stakeholders, it lets them know that you are concerned about them and their business needs. 

Strategies focus on ways to mitigate the crisis, so that it does not disrupt the organization’s revenue stream or shut down the business operations. It was almost impossible to stop the “bleeding,” therefore, financial resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners were implemented through relief efforts and loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

There was not a blueprint to address COVID-19, so strategies and tactics were developed in real-time. The most pressing issues were focusing on how to be safe while adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of working remotely and how to continue business operations.

Finally, all CCPs need to have an evaluation measurement to determine what was done well and any improvements for the next crisis situation, which could be totally different from COVID-19. A crisis can occur at any time, and it is best to handle the situation based on a proposed action plan even if it has to change.

Resources:

https://www.cassling.com/knowledge-center/six-elements-of-a-crisis-communication-plan

Paula Anderson is the founder and president of Writing by Design Media. She can be reached at writingbydesign7@gmail.com.