COVID-19 Communication: How to Handle Internal Dialogue During the Outbreak
For law and other professional services’ firms, having the right plans in place has become crucial to stay afloat during this tumultuous time.
The coronavirus is officially a global crisis, and it seems like its spread and ripple effects are becoming more concerning by the hour. For law and other professional services’ firms, having the right plans in place has become crucial to stay afloat during this tumultuous time. Whether you choose to go remote or cancel or postpone events, it is important to be mindful of how you are communicating these decisions internally and then ultimately, to your clients. As a crisis communications expert, I’ve put together a quick-hit list of the five best ways to communicate with your employees as we brace ourselves for what’s to come.
- Stay Educated and Updated Yourself. This is akin to putting on your own mask before assisting others. If you are someone who is dictating the exposure of others—in this case, your employees—you have a responsibility to educate yourself with the correct, updated information before making decisions that will impact your company. Make sure you are reading and watching up-to-date news from credible sources and following your state and county regulations in real-time.
- Communicate frequently and clearly. Create a routine system of checking in with your employees with an official status update at the beginning and the end of each day, at minimum. It is important to establish a constant cadence of communication so that your employees trust that you are on it and that you’re staying on it.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Make yourself available at designated times each day to answer any questions or concerns your employees may have during this time. This is stressful for everyone, and individuals may have certain specific needs (necessary travel, food insecurity, possible exposure) that they would feel more comfortable disclosing in a confidential, private manner. Setting aside a time and place to do so will make your employees feel more comfortable to come to you with their concerns.
- Stay cool, calm and collected. Before sending any mass communications, read your emails aloud to yourself. Be wary of the tone of your message—do you sound panicked? Remember that your reaction trickles down to the rest of the business. Communicate with as much poise and grace as you can muster, because it really does make a difference.
- Refer to an expert. If you feel overwhelmed by information, consider reaching out to an employment law firm or your corporate health insurance provider to review best practices. It’s important that we all acknowledge what we don’t know, do our best to educate ourselves, and remain mindful of when it’s time to bring on consultants to advise us.
Once you have gone through the five tips, you will be ready to communicate externally to your clients. Staying mindful of tone and factual accuracy, you want to let your clients know that you are here for them throughout this difficult time, even if it might be in a different way than they are used to. It may be helpful to set up a hotline with a few automated options to help manage inbound questions and concerns. So long as you stay in sync with the company line and follow the plan, you’re sure to stay on track and continue serving the community.
Julie Talenfeld is the president of BoardroomPR, one of Florida’s largest integrated marketing agencies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.