man against windowWe’re just days into the COVID-19 pandemic, scrambling to adapt as threats grow and government mandates change daily. At times like this, we hope our emergency plans are adequate to keep our people, customers, profits and market reputation intact.

As one 19th-century military commander put it, “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” That’s doubly true when fighting a foe we’ve never encountered before.

In this post, we share some ways business, security and emergency management leaders can respond effectively, ease pressure on internal and external audiences, and reduce the chance of human error.

Integrate & automate existing tools

As emergency communications experts, integrations are always top of mind, since it’s an affordable, relatively easy way to increase your mass and emergency communications capabilities using resources you already own.

The basic idea is to get technology systems throughout your building or campus to “talk” with another so you can automate tasks and magnify their functions.

Integration enables a few things, including:

  • Ability to reach more people, faster.
  • Ability to automate tasks, reducing your response time, chance of human error, and staff workload.
  • Ability to instantly alert and mobilize select audiences, from your security team to first responders, employees, customers, suppliers and more.
  • Ability to customize messages — their content, who receives it, and what systems are used in each, unique scenario.
  • Ability to view threats across your entire campus and manage your response from a central dashboard, versus having to log into separate systems or physically go check out a situation.

Related resources:

Make communication factual and alerts actionable

The World Health Organization cautions us to combat a growing “infodemic,” or the spread of false information. You can protect your audiences and reputation by making sure any information or guidance you share is rooted on verifiable facts.

To ensure that, experts at the Public Relations Society of America recommend you rely on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. What’s more, they recommend checking those sources three times each day since things are changing so fast.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also made a Coronavirus Response Toolkit available, based on CDC recommendations for businesses and workers.

Related resources:

Use your downtime to improve crisis response and recovery plans

If you’re experiencing downtime during the coronavirus crisis, use it to review and refine your crisis response and business continuity plans. Adapt continuously as conditions shift in the coming weeks.

Your triple goal should be to (1) prevent losses now, (2) recover as fast as possible, and (3) make your business more resilient and prepared when the next crisis hits. 

Related resources:

Look for ways to help

At a minimum, you’ll want to make sure your organization is complying with guidance from the CDC and government officials. Consider that crises are also great opportunities to strengthen relationships with stakeholders and your local community.

What can you do to ease fears or pressure on the people you serve? Can you share resources with people or local nonprofits in need? What do you have plenty of (time, tools, expertise, goods) that you could share with others?

All things considered…

“When dealing with uncertainty, leaders need to look at communication from the perspective of your audience and have empathy for them rather than fear of doing the wrong thing,” writes Paul Argenti, a corporate communications expert, for the Harvard Business Review.

“This requires companies to communicate when they don’t have all of the information, to reveal as much as they can about sensitive information, and to be vigilant about correcting mistakes without worrying about the repercussions.”

Your employees, customers and partners will reward you with their trust.

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