The current Coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) pandemic crisis has held Thailand and the whole world captive. The overall impact of the pandemic continues to evolve across a range of health consequences, economic effects, political exposure, and personal concerns reflecting social impact and family concerns. Should current trends continue, companies and organizations will need to plan accordingly for a variety of scenarios representing escalations in this situation.
Vaccine 1: Take a stakeholder-centric approach
When communicating during this ongoing outbreak, companies must understand the diverse, and sometimes conflicting, needs and concerns of their stakeholders. These stakeholder groups include employees, contractors, customers, partner organizations, local communities, public health authorities, community leaders, policymakers, and others.
Vaccine 2: Defer to global and local authorities, and do not underestimate the situation
Because this situation is bigger than any one organization or institution; Companies should embrace the reality that everyone is facing this situation together. International, national, and local health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Public Health Ministry, Department of Disease Control, the Cabinet, the Government, and any strategic announcement can be relied upon for the most accurate and up-to-date guidance on how companies and individuals can prevent potential infections.
Vaccine 3: Use values, empathy, and accountability as decision-making guides
As in any situation that puts the interests of an organization and its constituencies at risk, values are a critical element of decision making. More than ever before, organizations are expected to operate with a sense of purpose, balancing the interests of all stakeholders. It is important for management teams to demonstrate empathy and accountability as they make decisions that will potentially affect health and economic outcomes.
Vaccine 4: Accept imperfect information. Decide quickly and communicate clearly
Inconsistent, delayed, inaccurate, contradictory information has been and will continue to be, a characteristic of this situation. Clarify your organization’s decision-making process and participants, with local, regional, and global grants of authority. It is often true that communications needs drive management’s choices in critical situations. However, beware of fake news, or rumor during the rush of decision making, as the consequences could be adding panic to the already constant uncertain situation. Anticipate that the demand for information and announcements about changes in travel policy, operational schedules, sick day and family leave policies and other developments that affect the Business Continuity Plan will compress decisions.
Vaccine 5: Recognize the potential for complications and opposition
Even though humanity is “all in this together” in the face of this new global health threat, some opponents or special interests will take advantage or act defensively. For example, organized labor unions may wish to speak directly to the public on behalf of your employees’ health risks. Competitors may spread rumors about your supply chain or service capacity. Business partners or governments in affected locations may disagree with your characterization of their situation or health response. Where possible, consider previewing communications with other parties in the spirit of cooperation. If not, at least play out the potential reaction of your traditional opponents or other interested parties. How can what you are saying be taken the wrong way or out of context? Don’t make it easier for them.
As one of the global leading communications agencies, FleishmanHillard is advising clients in several major industry sectors on how to evaluate expectations and communicate in this evolving global situation. Through a ‘COVID-19 Crisis Communication Taskforce’, its crisis counselors from more than 80 offices around the world have continuously updated their clients with updates and recommendation onthe ever-changing situation. FleishmanHillard Thailand’s Senior Vice President, Partner and GM, Sophis Kasemsahasin urges companies to take on these five strategic vaccines for their Crisis Communications.