After months of zero community spread of COVID-19, Barbados’ euphoric COVID-19 bubble burst at the end of 2020. This meant that the government and several companies were faced with a new crisis, that if not managed properly, could threaten both political and corporate currencies. While most of the companies directly impacted fared pretty well with their communications efforts, the government, however, lost some goodwill as its initial communication was interpreted negatively by the populace.
In a crisis the public expects leaders to take responsibility and act in its interest. In terms of political public relations, this means being able to generate empathy and a sense of trust in the government’s actions. For corporations, it means convincing both customers and employees that their wellbeing trumps profits.
To garner goodwill and be perceived as a good corporate citizen, here are five public relations tips from PRMR Inc. on how to approach communications and decision making during a public health crisis.
1. Communicate Swiftly
Be sure to be the one telling your story. Do not hesitate and do not hope that others will not find out that an incident has occurred. Be honest and upfront with your employees and stakeholders who would be directly impacted. Hesitating to communicate especially in this social media age, is like begging for someone to tell your story which most times is not favorable.
2. Take Decisive Action
If you have to close your operation do so. Do not wait for the health inspectors to turn up and make you do it. Always do the right thing. It is better to lose some income than to lose both income and your reputation.
3. Always Demonstrate you are Following the Science
Although all the rules may not be enforced by law, you should enforce them in your operations to demonstrate that you care for the health and wellbeing of your employees and customers. If the science says clean hands and masks, then ensure there is an opportunity for persons to sanitize and that you restrict persons who do not comply with the rules.
4. Engage your Internal Stakeholders First
Always communicate with your employees first. They should always have a handle on what is happening within the company. This applies not only in a health crisis but at all times. Your employees are your best advocates so treat them as valued allies.
5. Demonstrate an Ethic of Care
Always demonstrate care in how you manage your business. A maid at a West Coast hotel said to me that her hotel had a guest that tested positive for COVID-19 and management brought in an outside cleaning company to sanitize the room. She valued that they cared enough about her health not to ask her or her colleagues to do so. This type of caring demonstration, that puts people before profits, builds lasting loyalty.