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Coronavirus and Tornados: 5 Crisis Management Best Practices

March 17, 2020 Julia Motis

tornadoCrises can come out of nowhere, like the EF-2 and -3 tornados that ripped through Nashville and surrounding areas last week or the Coronavirus appearing in a Tennessee patient and spreading. 

Events like these will undoubtedly affect your clients, employees and stakeholders in some way. So you need to have crisis management protocols at the ready. In high-stress, timely situations like these, you need to know how to best manage operational and policy changes, the flow of communication and the emotional responses that crises generate.

These are our top five crisis management best practices:

Plan, plan, plan 

Think about the best ways to protect your employees and customers, and create a plan around that. You may need to change office hours, operations, sales processes, hygiene and cleaning rules, etc. Put any new protocols in place as soon as possible and enforce them.

On a situational basis, have a plan for what happens when something goes wrong. Have clear steps to take if, for example, someone in your organization tests positive for Coronavirus or your office is damaged in a bad storm. You never know exactly what could happen, but the more prepared you are in general, the better.

Constant, clear communication

Even if you don’t have a plan right away, let everyone know when they can expect to receive more information. Sometimes fear and panic arise out of speculation, so minimize that by letting them know that important information will be on its way to them soon.

Don’t just put new protocols into place, communicate them clearly. Explain to everyone involved why these new changes are beneficial to them and how it will keep them safe in the long run. 

With any communication in a crisis, be transparent. This isn’t the time to sugarcoat or spin the message. Share credible information from official sources, both local and national, and pass along the information as it comes. 

And for any external media communications regarding the crisis situation, have your crisis communication plan and pre-approved talking points at the ready, and stick to them.

Review existing communications

Take a look through all the content and messaging you have going out on all channels. If necessary, change the content and tone of all upcoming email campaigns, social media campaigns, press releases and other communications to address the current situation. Perform an advertising audit as well.

Doing so will avoid appearing “tone-deaf.” Sharing something irrelevant or inappropriate in the midst of a crisis will not reflect well on your organization, especially at a time when all eyes may be on you.

In high-stress, timely situations like these, you need to know how to best manage operational and policy changes, the flow of communication and the emotional responses that crises generate.

Make information easy to find 

Don’t make people dig for the information they need. This can just exacerbate the emotional response they may already be experiencing during the crisis event. Put all information in conspicuous places like the front page of your website or in a newsletter sent to your stakeholders, employees and clients.

Use every social media channel, not just one. Also remember that not everyone uses social media, so communicate to your audience via multiple channels to make sure the information gets to everyone that needs it.

Put yourself in others’ shoes 

Think about what your customers, stakeholders and employees need, how they’ll be affected, and how you can address it and offer support. Make any decisions with their best interests in mind.

Keep in mind people will be worried. There will be some fear about the status of the services they’re receiving and the impact that they may feel as a result of the crisis. Address any changes regarding monetized events or services, and clearly disseminate rescheduled dates, potential refunds, credits or shipment interruptions, etc. When possible, personalize the messaging so the recipients feel individually cared-for. Make sure that no one is left in the rubble.

Let’s be honest – crises happen. But they don’t have to be detrimental to your business (exceptions such as natural disasters apply, of course). You just need to know how you’re going to deal with the aftermath. Be ready to adapt as needed, and remember why protecting your business is so important. You’ll hopefully feel just a little bit more unstoppable.

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