Group Gordon’s Jacob Rodriguez outlines key principles consumer-facing businesses should consider when responding to a global crisis.
We’re in uncharted, once-in-a-generation territory with the novel coronavirus. The pandemic has made apparent just how important it is to be ready in the face of a global crisis.
When it comes to a global crisis, solving the underlying issue is outside the control of most companies. However, effective communication in the event of an external crisis requires many of the same considerations as responding to other kinds of crises that affect businesses. Below are three key principles to keep in mind when responding to a global crisis that affects your business, employees, and customers.
Get to the root of the problem. It’s important to establish what threat the external crisis poses to your business’ operations in the short and long term and consider how it will change your interactions with consumers. For example, if city or state officials in your region require that businesses close, your company will not be able to offer its services to consumers. In other circumstances, your business may need to limit hours, which would pose different challenges.
Clearly identifying how the threat immediately affects your business and customers will enable your team to respond in a meaningful way. With a global health crisis like the coronavirus, any threat assessment should be guided by the latest public health information and recommendations from reliable sources like the government. Following these policies helps ensure that you’re prioritizing the health and safety of employees and customers in the process.
Communicate clearly and transparently with audiences. You’ve determined how the threat interacts with your business and what needs to change from an operations standpoint. Now, you can communicate to employees about immediate changes so that you’re ready to address consumers on a united front and to external audiences about what they can expect. For example, to comply with social distancing guidelines and ensure that high-touch equipment is safe for customers, a gym can communicate to customers the increased sanitation measures it is undertaking and what social distancing requirements will mean for group fitness classes. In an evolving situation like the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to keep communicating as new developments force new changes to your business. Don’t make promises to your customers or employees, like that you’ll be able to provide adequate sanitation products to stay open, that you don’t know for certain you’ll be able to keep.
Be nimble. It’s important when planning for a crisis of this scale that you consider all possible scenarios and put systems in place to be in the best position to act quickly as things evolve. Brainstorm all future threats to your business that may arise as the situation evolves. Determine who needs to be on your crisis response team, who will respond to each kind of scenario, and how that might change if one of your key members becomes unavailable. Planning for multiple outcomes and developing protocols will ensure you’re ready to adapt to new developments at a moment’s notice.
In a highly volatile global crisis of coronavirus’ scale, there is no clear playbook for how to respond. A willingness to be nimble in the face of the unexpected, socially and morally responsible, and transparent with audiences will help businesses address the situation effectively. At the end of the day, the goal is to inform and protect customers and employees, strike the right tone, and demonstrate how the actions you’re taking correspond to your business’ values.