Crisis communications in 2020

By 9th July 2020 Insights

Staff isolation, infection outbreaks, social distancing all represent new risks that could pose long term detrimental consequences to a brand’s reputation.  As we leave lockdown, it’s up to business owners to safeguard colleagues and customers from the risk of COVID-19.  These responsibilities represent significant implications to corporate social responsibilities. 

In a pre-COVID-19 world, few crisis communication plans would focus on issues such as office layout, home working arrangements, onsite PPE but it is precisely these type of topics that have been given a steroid boost by the global pandemic.

Crisis plans are embedded in most organisations. Typically they are centred around ‘at risk’ activities and the steps needed to manage these (a zoo will have communication protocols around an escaped monkey, while a GreenTech provider against breakdowns in new technologies and a fintech start-up if they are the victim of a cyber-attack). But COVID-19 has given a whole new vista on which to judge the risk to your brand reputation.

This expanded view presents challenges around many new issues but include:

·        isolated and disparate staff – and not just those who are ill and absent from post or those managing home-schooling, but also the very structure of how we manage crisis has altered with many of your regular ‘crisis team’ absent from their typical place of work.

·     infection outbreak amongst colleagues – we have seen factories closed because of a cluster of infections, so if that happened to you, what does that mean for your community, your supply chain or customers? The danger also exists, as we’ve seen in the top echelons of Government, of outbreaks amongst your most senior staff – what would happen if your board of directors were caught in a cluster of infections?

·     social distancing, hygiene and PPE within the workplace – if you cannot control how to distance staff and someone falls ill, what is stopping that person’s significant other going to the press or social channels and proclaiming your fundamental disregard for staff and how do you manage that? Or what if your staff in the field were potentially responsible for infecting the general public?

·        increased reliance on technology and the subsequent security risks – how we use technology has, for many, been a bright spot in our new working arrangements – but is the tech secure? How do we test this, how do we disperse sensitive information to colleagues working remotely? What if it is hacked or sent to someone incorrectly?

The implications of not tending to these potential crises could be profound on a company’s hard-earned reputation.

‘Normal’ as we know it is not going to be the normal any time soon, so you need to consider the implications now. It is equally paramount whether you are a tech business with a global reach or a local factory whose reputation is embedded in the community.

And the time to act is now. As with all crisis issues, the absolute worst time to consider your safety protocols is when you are in the middle of the storm itself, when you are faced with social media outrage and penetrating media questions. Planning is key.

For more information, contact Simon Ward at Agency Six on simon@agencysix.co.uk or call 07396 060 272

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