COVID-19 Coronavirus Crisis Communication Update: March 16, 2020

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

We’ll be putting a date on all of our crisis communication updates as it relates to COVID-19 and coronavirus. Our goal is to provide expert crisis communication tips, and while some of it is evergreen, some of our advice is based on the crisis events of the day as we enter a world that changes by the minute.

Today’s advice is evergreen. Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated my hometown of New Orleans. The economy came to an immediate standstill. Everyone’s life was violently disrupted.

At the time, I was very angry, because I had predicted the effects of Katrina in 1989; I had warned of it. Some communities in the metro area, to my pleasure, headed the warning and prepared for the crisis. New Orleans, as a city, did not.

COVID-19 is exactly the same.

  • Many experts have predicted such an event.
  • Many crisis experts have a plan.  
  • Some of you have crisis communication plans in place.
  • Many are like New Orleans and are left to wing it hour by hour because the planning was never done.

During those dark days after Hurricane Katrina, I developed a Crisis Communications Leadership Profile.  It was true then and it is true today.

Crisis Communications Leadership Profile:

  • Good leaders will do their duty, while fake leaders are in denial.
  • If a leader does his or her duty, they will take action. Meanwhile, fake leaders replace action with the arrogance.
  • When a good leader does their duty and takes action, their employees and stakeholders will be responsible.
  • Meanwhile, a fake leader, who is in denial and arrogant, will then blame others for their own failures, rather than taking responsibility for their own shortcomings.

How does this affect you?

Look around you in the organization where you work. Gravitate and work with those who “get it.” Distance yourself from those who don’t get it.

Gravitate to those who believe in planning and executing their plans, which is their duty and which requires action. When done correctly, your employees and customers or constituents will hear your communications and therefore be equipped to be responsible.

This will not be over quickly. My prediction is that you are looking at 90 days of life discomforts on the low end, but more than likely 120 to 150 days of disruption on the practical side of things.

Your task is to communicate clearly, effectively, and frequently so everyone in your stakeholder group knows what they can expect day by day, week by week, and month by month.

As always, if I can be of further assistance, please reach out to me. Use this link to schedule a call https://calendly.com/braud/15min

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson


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