A Crisis Management ACT-ion Plan for COVID-19

I hope you’re safe and reading this from the comfort of home. We’re living in unprecedented times filled with economic disruption and uncertainty. I predict individuals and businesses will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed in their beliefs and values that this will impact business models in unforeseen ways. What will never change, however, is how a business communicates with the public and their employees during times of great change. Businesses face challenges every day that causes them to have to look at life differently and adapt to new ways of thinking. Now, more than ever, this shift cannot happen without carefully weighing how to communicate effectively when it matters the most.

When we’re sought out to counsel clients during a crisis, a simple acronym forms the foundation of our crisis response plan – ACT or Authenticity, Consistency and Transparency.

Taken alone, ACT states what a business must do during a time of crisis, Take Action! Often times when a crisis arises, the knee-jerk reaction is to want to put your head down and hope it will go away. Many businesses enter into a state of crisis paralysis where they pause all communications or ignore the crisis entirely. I will tell you, there is always a better way. In fact, not taking any action at all will likely cause problems of its own later for you. The key is to have a crisis management process in place so that if a crisis were to arise, your business can focus on its communication strategy and developing innovative solutions for your clients.

There are a multitude of things you can do behind the scenes to prepare to meet a crisis head-on before you address it publicly, such as developing a business continuity plan, internal talking points for senior leadership, board members and/or employees, response training, preparing media statements and other communications materials including website messaging and social media posts. Additionally, you should have a crisis response team in place who knows what assets need to be developed as part of your crisis communication plan so that your business can act in a timely manner.

If the situation later necessitates the need to go public, the action you took to prepare will place you in a much stronger position to face the issue with a cool and level head. In short, take charge and don’t be afraid to tell your own bad news first. Being bold in this way enables you to take control of your crisis by telling your story from the get-go in a way that is authentic to you and your business, is consistent in how you address your employees and customers on a daily basis, and is transparent in enough to leave little to no doubt of the true sincerity of your message. Granted, each crisis situation is different and like an onion, where many layers need to be pulled back to understand and deal with the issue at hand. But, using ACT can spur you to look at a crisis differently. Rather than being a situation to fear, it can be an opportunity to define what you stand for as a business.