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Outreach Without Adding to The Outbreak Panic

Heather Craft

CEO, North America

Technology, Stakeholder Communications and the Coronavirus.

The worldwide health concern around the Coronavirus is driving lots of conversations and global brands, of all sizes, need to have an authentic plan to proactively communicate with internal and external stakeholders.

In the last two weeks, we’ve seen brands adjust earnings guidance due to closures and manufacturing concerns, pull out of major events and cancel international activations. For the technology community, Mobile World Congress (MWC), was at the center of the conversation. Last week, MWC, the world’s largest event for the mobile industry, which typically features prominent executives representing global mobile operators, device manufacturers, and technology providers, was canceled. This news came just days after major global brands, including NVIDIA, AT&T, Intel and Facebook pulled out of the show.

What can we learn from the response to-date and what should other brands consider as they prepare their own communications regarding Coronavirus?

Communicate with employees first

Employees are your brand’s No.1 asset, so be authentic and make sure employees know their well being and their safety is the company’s top concern. Provide a clear update on any changes to current operations, travel plans / policies, as well as preventative measures being put into place. Employees should be kept up to date, and whenever possible hear the news from their company first, not from a news source, blog or someone on social media. This also includes letting the right employees know when and what you’ll be communicating to your external audiences, especially those who are on the front lines with customers and partners.

Don’t forget about Customers, Partners & Investors

If any of the precautions put into place as a result of the Coronavirus will impact customers, partners or other external stakeholders, it’s important that you have a clear and timely external communications plan.

With a thoughtful plan you are not only keeping stakeholders informed, but also helping to squash misinformation and mitigate additional business risk, all while demonstrating your brand values. To do so, deliver a straightforward message. Do not over-sensationalize, but also stay authentic to the brand. Most importantly, don’t forget to share a point of contact for additional questions or information.

Also, do not forget, if your organization has to make major operational changes that could impact business and are likely to make headlines, make sure you communicate these with investors and other key stakeholders. Do so in a timely and factual manner, providing confidence in the solution and facts on what to expect in terms of potential impact, as well as external sentiment.

Overall, being able to address concerns with facts, empathy and a values-based point of view will enable communicators to engage with stakeholders without adding panic to what is already a tense global conversation.