March 18, 2020
COVID-19 Communication Guidelines
Written by: Justin Kaiser
Last week, we shared a blog on COVID-19 Crisis Planning, providing an initial update on the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Friday, governments have declared public health emergencies across North America and Europe, closing businesses and borders. Today, we’re providing further COVID-19 communication guidelines and recommendations for businesses and non-profit organizations, and where organizations should focus their efforts.
COVID-19 Communication Guidelines | Dos & Don’ts
- Refer to the virus as COVID-19;
- Share public health recommendations only from public authorities;
- Acknowledge the unpredictable/unprecedented nature of the global situation;
- Highlight how your organization is monitoring the situation closely;
- Inform your stakeholders (e.g. employees, customers, partners, and suppliers) of any changes to business operations, including deliverables and deadlines;
- Prioritize the health and wellbeing of all employees – this should remain your number one priority.
- Refer to “business as usual” – there is nothing usual about what people or businesses are experiencing. A better way to frame this is “we are continuing our day-to-day operations”;
- Sensationalize the situation – avoid adjectives such as deadly, devastating, scary;
- Refer to it as coronavirus (there are multiple strains of coronavirus, COVID-19 is the pandemic strain);
- Make promises or speculate about future operations or unknown outcomes;
- Make industry or government predictions – refrain from downplaying or upweighting the severity of the situation.
COVID-19 Communication Guidelines | Communicating The Terminology
Social Distancing is the practice of distancing oneself from others by at least 2 meters (6 feet) through avoiding crowds, large gatherings, and public places including restaurants, bars, and gyms.
Self-Isolation is the practice of isolating oneself from others, including housemates. In the case of COVID-19, self-isolation is recommended to last for 14 days.
Quarantine is either the mandatory and/or voluntary restriction of the movement of people, imposed by local or federal authorities.
COVID-19 Communication Guidelines | Focus on Internal Communication
It is our opinion that businesses and non-profit organizations need to shift from external media relations and marketing communications to focus on the internal communications of educating and supporting their employees through this uncertain time.
With a public health crisis upon us, many employees are now working from home, where possible. It is important to provide your employees with regular updates on the latest public health advice. The health (mental and physical) and safety of your employees should remain your number one priority.
Communicating with Employees (Working From Home)
Identify the proper channels for internal communication and provide daily updates to your employees, including organizational information and updates from public health authorities. Don’t worry about over-communicating with employees – keeping regular contact is especially important for employees working from home. Using video calls provides an opportunity for vital human interaction, and don’t miss opportunities to share positive news stories during this challenging and uncertain time.
Communicating With Laid-off Employees
If your organization has had to temporarily close, reduce staff levels, or announce layoffs, it’s important for you to keep an open dialogue and ensure that they have the information they need to receive government benefits and assistance, along with updated public health information. This is also important for when business operations begin to resume as normal.
We’re Here to Help.
This is an unprecedented situation for all of us and it requires a collective, collaborative approach. As a purpose-driven PR agency, Yulu is continuing to support our clients to provide their stakeholders with authentic and transparent stakeholder communications as the situation unfolds. Should your organization require support with COVID-19 communications support, please have a look at our crisis communications and issues management services or reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe and healthy, everyone.