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Where to start?  How does one write about marketing and communication during a pandemic?

I didn’t expect this question to haunt me, nor did any of us expect to be where we are today. But, our world has changed. So, now we move forward. But how?

Stacy Cornay
Jochen Luebke / Getty Images
Stacy Cornay Communication Concepts

For years I’ve preached the necessity of having crisis communication plans in place. I advise my clients, and others, that a lack of such planning will result in confusion, business disruption and possible heartache for those involved. I’m frequently asked what would trigger such a plan. Generally I discuss natural disasters, workplace violence or the loss of key personnel. While we all understand that sickness may impact our daily lives, few of us are likely to think about pandemics.

Crisis plans, if done well, have a significant role to play now. The basics are still the same, although modifications may apply. The components of such a plan include: clearly communicating what you know as quickly as possible; admitting what you don’t know; keeping your workforce informed at all times; being prepared to work off site for an extended period of time; communicating on a regular basis with key customers, clients and the public if needed, and keeping on top of changes as they occur.

Every business should have multiple people identified as spokespeople. They should all be communicating from the same page, with the same message. Failure to do this will cause confusion and possibly fear. Lack of communication creates a vacuum that will be filled by others, usually with incorrect and possibly damaging information.

Scheduling frequent times to communicate with your team is important. Knowing that updated information will be shared at regular intervals helps to lessen uncertainty. Additional updates should take place as needed. If you don’t know the answers to questions, admit it. Then work diligently to obtain the information required. Sometimes we don’t have the information our employees or customers want. It is better to admit this than to make guesses or assumptions.

Keep on top of facts that impact your business, but be wary of unconfirmed information. It’s better to wait a bit to assure that what you share is up to date. Rushing to share information may result in constant backtracking if it is found to be incorrect.

Try to remain calm. This is difficult when the future is unclear, but employees and the public need to feel that someone has their back. Spokespeople need to project confidence that they are reliable and involved.

Consider ways to share information, such as social media, websites and email. These options are always good, but are more important now as become more isolated from each other. If you don’t know how to do this you may think about contacting experts.

Pay particular attention to your messaging. You don’t want to seem disconnected from what people are experiencing. Advertising and promotions that may have worked well a couple of weeks ago may be inappropriate and out of touch now. Update all of your platforms to ensure you are connecting and not unintentionally alienating people.

Work creatively. How can you support your business while supporting others? What actions can you take to simplify the lives of your employees, customers and the community? Most situations provide different opportunities to connect.

Learn. Every situation whether large or small provides opportunities to learn if we are open to them.

Lastly, remember this. When you are in the middle of a storm cloud it’s hard to think outside of it, but the only way out of the storm is to ride through it and things will be a lot clearer on the other side.        

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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