Hindsight is a wonderful thing – so they say – but where was the Coronavirus “Business Plan” for Crisis Communications?
Every indication seems to be that the response to Coronavirus in terms of communication has been reactive, not proactive, ie lurching from crisis to crisis, responding reactively, after the event, to every bad news story related to Covid – with a very, very few exceptions.
Crisis Communications is an essential part of Business Continuity Planning.
The issue is very simple. If you don’t commit resources and expertise to Communications, you end up permanently “fire- fighting” rather than actually communicating.
A few basic things needed to be communicated from the very start:
- There is a plan.
- We want to do our best to save lives and protect you.
- We want to do our best to support the economy during these challenging times by protecting jobs, supporting business and investing huge amounts of money in various grants and schemes to achieve this.
There appears to be little evidence that there was a plan – certainly not from the start. Perhaps there was one, but this has not been communicated properly. It actually seems to be a day by day, reactive response, lurching from crisis to crisis – which is the worst way to handle the biggest crisis facing this country and the world since World War 2.
Let us look at some of the communication messages which have come through during this time. Some have worked and some have not.
“Stay at home” – worked. Clear, concise, specific (with one, high-profile, exception).
“Stay alert” – did not. Not specific enough and open to interpretation. Unclear communication causes confusion and does more harm than good.
Finally, the issue of the Daily Coronavirus Briefing: It is now getting tedious beyond belief, unless there is something new to say. Yes there is a need for communication, openness and transparency, but this is now doing more harm than good. One of the golden rules of communication is when NOT to say anything. In business you pick your battles and similarly in Communications.
All people really want to know are:
- The numbers – are the number of deaths going up or down (same for the number of cases).
- What should I do if I think I have Covid (already been communicated).
- Is there any fresh news on easing Lockdown?
- Is my job and salary protected?
- How can I access money from Government grants and schemes?
Perhaps a simple statement to the media about the latest figures each day, when there is nothing else worth saying would be a better idea than exposing a Minister to difficult questions on unrelated topics on a daily basis.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but we are not preaching hindsight. We are advocating foresight even on a very basic level at every level of strategic thinking for all organisations.
Crisis Communications is a vital and needs to be inked to Business Continuity Planning.
Media Friendly can help.
Our Crisis Media Strategy workshop is designed for executive management teams, tailored to your own organisation and structured to support your existing protocols. Our Crisis Media Management and Real Time Crisis Media Training courses will ensure that your senior leaders are robust and confident media spokespeople, even in the most challenging situations.
Media Friendly specialise in Media Training, Crisis Media Management, Communication Skills and PR Training. Call us now if you need urgent media advice or planning any media interview skills training. Details on all of our journalist-led media training courses can be found here.