Coronavirus is threatening public safety and has the potential to damage organizations significantly, even those who do not have operations in China. The situation is unfolding rapidly and unpredictably. There is much we still don’t know about how the situation unfolds.
It is a crisis.
It is a crisis not only for general public safety purposes, it is also a crisis for every company in those countries where cases of the virus have been detected. This is going to continue until the rate of infections starts to show a sustained decrease.
Engage your crisis team and crisis management process. This is the appropriate group to be monitoring the situation and deciding on priorities and actions.
Review your stakeholder mapping. And understand how the crisis is impacting your stakeholders: Employees and consumers may be the most obvious stakeholders, but in this crisis government authorities are a critical stakeholder.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Organizations needs to establish themselves as the source of authoritative news on how the organization is impacted so that unnecessary scares and misinformation are avoided. Communicate regularly, commit to transparency and even when there is nothing new to say, repeat the messages again on a regular basis. Use every available channel to get the messages through to your stakeholders.
Plan for the worst. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Use your crisis scenario planning and business continuity plans to think through worst case scenarios. Be ready to engage the resources you will need to respond fast. This may mean bringing forward actions such as allowing employees to work from home or even suspending certain activities in the highest risk areas.
The safety of people comes first. Make sure any action you take to protect the organization has put people’s safety first. This is the best way to protect the organization’s reputation regardless of what happens next.
Now is the time to take the returns on your investment in training and planning against a crisis. Contact us if you need support, we are here to help.
Watch the BBC Asia Business Report interview with our associate Janice Armstrong on Crisis Communication and how Should Businesses Communicated during the coronaviruscrisis.
Cathy Heeley is a Singapore-based associate with CS&A International. She has 15 years’ experience as a legal counsel working with a top tier Australian firm and 14 years’ experience working as an in-house legal counsel with Kraft Foods, Mondelez International, Croda and Syngenta covering Asia Pacific.
Janice Armstrong is an Associate of CS&A International based in Singapore with over 25 years experience in government affairs, and issues and crisis management for major companies in the food, pharma and agro sectors.