Coronavirus: Communicating your response

Barnaby Fry

MHP’s Head of Crisis and Risk, Barnaby Fry, explores effective communication during the uncertainty of the Coronavirus crisis

There is a whirlwind of information and communications being made by organisations to their stakeholders. And while there is a need to communicate, in times of crisis, there is also the risk of overcommunication or producing contradictory or counterproductive advice.

We have been monitoring best-practice and sharing these examples and lessons with our clients, including the following principles, which are relevant for drafting communications designed for both internal and external audiences:

  1. Your tone should be calm and reassuring. You want to show that you are taking the situation seriously without fuelling mass hysteria
  2. If you are not providing information that is relevant and important to the recipient, why communicate?
  3. Does this come across as you pushing a product around the virus?
  4. Are you perpetuating or fuelling rumours? Always verify your information and check sources.
  5. Are you reassuring yourself or your stakeholders? It should be the latter.
  6. Are you showing empathy for the intended recipients’ situation?
  7. Show what you are doing to help slow the spread of the virus, either through remote working or limiting travel or events.
  8. Have you consulted with HR, IT and legal teams? Will your communications impact their preparations?
  9. Any links included should direct to a trusted source, such as the combined UK Government response
  10. Keep it short and to the point.

Above all you need to be confident and decisive, even if you don’t feel it. You are not alone, the situation is fluid and dynamic, especially if you operate in multiple markets. That means there is no definitive answer in terms of when you should take action and what action you should take, but clarity is key at all times.

Think of what you say as incremental reassurance about the actions you are taking to help slow the spread of the virus and protect your workforce and other stakeholders as best you can.

We continue to work with companies across a range of sectors, all of which have different pressures that demand their attention. What is common throughout is the duty of care to their workforce, in what is hoped to be a short term disruption to normal working practices.