Crisis Communication in the COVID-19 Era: Best Practices for Proactive Management

by | 23 Mar 2020 | Insights

In this time of confusion and anxiety, communication has a vital role to play. Here is how PR professionals can keep stakeholders informed.

These are unprecedented times with disruption to work, travel and everyday life on a scale most of us have never seen before. And worryingly, the outbreak of COVID-19 and the implementation of measures designed to reduce the spread of the virus show no signs of slowing down.

The Coronavirus pandemic is dominating all news bulletins across platforms; it’s inescapable no matter where you get you news from. Social media is awash with updates, developments and tips, not to mention spurious theories and downright misinformation.

In this time of all-consuming stress, confusion and turmoil, communication has a vital role to play. As PR professionals, we can use our skills to keep all stakeholders informed and up to date on what we’re doing and why.

Here at Cullen Communications, our office remained open until Friday 13 March – with employee rosters, hours and break times staggered to minimise the circulation of people on the premises. As of last week, however, our doors are shut and will remain so until further notice.

We had asked all employees to review and confirm their remote working arrangements and since then have instructed all staff to stay at home with their phones, laptops and other devices. In so far as possible, we’re all working as normal. Our PR clients have been told that we’re available any time.

With most companies having also closed down and sent employees home, we have written about tips on how to make the most of remote working. If you’ve anything to add or observe, please jump onto the comments section and let us know!

In the meantime, this is a large crisis and if there’s one thing the PR industry understands, it’s how to manage a crisis. So whether you’re an SME or a multinational business, here are three broad areas of action as you grapple with COVID-19.

Coordinate your crisis plan

  • Form a tight central group to take the lead on Coronavirus
  • Take all advice and instruction from relevant authorities
  • Consider the operational / business needs of your stakeholders
  • Create a fluid action plan that covers all eventualities (difficult we know!)
  • Communicate regularly on all appropriate platforms
  • Be transparent and clear in your messaging
  • Prepare Q&A for possible media inquiries

Communicate with your employees

• If you have not already done so, instruct staff to work from home
• Ensure lines of communication remain open
• Create a safe workplace
• Consider getting everyone on a collaboration platform
• Explain what steps you are taking and why
• Be understanding and flexible with remote-working staff
• But be clear about your expectations in terms of productivity / availability
• Communicate regularly, even if you are only ‘touching base’

Communicate with your clients / customers

• Explain what your company is doing and why
• Be open and transparent about the steps you are taking
• Communicate regularly and schedule frequent contact
• Consider a dedicated #Coronavirus page on your website
• Consider ways you can help your clients with their business

As a PR agency with 35 years of experience, we have provided crisis management and counsel to some of the biggest brands in business. If you are struggling with a communications plan in the face of the current pandemic, we would be happy to offer our advice.

Otherwise, let’s continue to prioritise health and look out for one another as much as possible. Here’s to a return to normality as soon as possible.


Read more latest insights