“It can take 20 years to build a reputation, and only five minutes to ruin it.”

–-Warren Buffett

In our last blog post we talked about the importance of branding. When you establish a brand you are establishing an emotional connection with people. Those people become your clients, consumers, customers, partners, board members, community, employees. They are stakeholders in what you do and who you are. When a crisis happens, those people rely on that emotional connection that you’ve created. They expect to hear from you. And how you react and respond will either strengthen that bond and trust you have created or weaken it.

I imagine that many of you are feeling like these last few weeks have been a bit surreal. The covid-19 virus is creating an ever-changing, extremely fluid environment. When a crisis happens, your stakeholders need to hear from you.

If you have a crisis communications plan, pull it out of the drawer and put it to work! Get your team together and go over it to make sure it is up-to-date.

If you don’t have a crisis communications plan, here is a quick Crisis Communications 101 lesson to get you through. These are 4 things to do right now.

1. Decide and put together a crisis communications team. These are the people who should be monitoring and managing the day to day, or in this case minute to minute, updates and changes to the crisis. This team should be checking in with each other at minimum once a day. This might need to be more frequent, depending on how much the covid-19 virus is affecting your business.

2.Everyone on your team needs to be on the same page with your messaging. This is vital to building trust with your audiences. Your message should be updated often and be consistent. The message should be fact-based and you should site your reliable sources. Make sure you communicate that this is a fluid situation and that you will update them often. The message should not pass on any extremes of panic or apathy. The message should also always include when your next update will be and that deadline must be met.

3.Your team should identify 4 key audiences and how you will communicate with them. Those 4 audiences are:
Internal audience: employees, board membersExternal stakeholders: partners, vendors, or community leadersCustomers and ClientsMedia
All four of these groups need to receive specialized, frequent and consistent communication from you. Decide how you will reach them. Will it be via email, conference call, website page, press release, personalized phone call, hotline? Decide who from your team will be in charge of communicating with each audience. Have a back-up person for each in case those people become unavailable.

4.Communicate. Communicate again. Communicate often. Even if you don’t think the current covid-19 virus pandemic applies to your business, you need to keep your audiences up to date. Are you open? Are your employees working? Teleworking? If you offer goods and services are those still being sold/sent/performed?