COVID-19 PLAYBOOK: Has Crisis Communications Changed Forever?

Coronavirus and Business

RockDove created our COVID-19 Playbook, available on mobile devices via In Case of Crisis, to help organizations share their trusted information with employees and stakeholders during this unprecedented public health crisis.

Since we did so, the focus on employees as the communication priority in a public health disaster has been endorsed repeatedly by the experts – and by our clients, who have sent us gratifying endorsements and positive feedback for the Playbook.

Edelman, the world’s largest public relations company, shared in mid-March the results of a special version of its respected Trust Barometer which reinforced that most people turn to their employers for trusted information in a crisis.

Not everything has been so clear or effective, as organizations scramble to manage the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 virus.

Inevitably, there already is the beginning of a process among crisis communicators and risk managers to understand what has been learnt and what can be done in the future to be better prepared.

The industry newsletter PRovoke (formerly The Holmes Report) is amongst those that are already gathering insights from experts.  

Even the largest organizations appeared to have been unprepared, suggesting that the emphasis has been on investing in resources to react effectively when a crisis occurs – rather than the more costly and time consuming, but vastly more effective, preparation of a deep and well-resourced crisis preparedness playbook.

Only a third of organizations say they were ‘very’ prepared for COVID-19, according to a survey released in March by the Institute of Public Relations and the agency Peppercomm.

 “The old crisis communications playbook is dead”.

That’s the conclusion of experienced communicator, Ted Birkhahn, formerly of Peppercomm and co-founder of the agency, Hot Paper Lantern, quoted in PRovoke.

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 catastrophe will lead to new ideas and crisis preparedness approaches.

However, equally important is the need for more rigorous and consistent application of best practices that we already know about, including:

  •  Constant monitoring of the media and the internet to give early warning of potentially disruptive issues.
  • Stakeholder mapping to identify the people and groups who have the biggest influence on the success of your organization, and which allows you to move quickly to communicate and protect them when a threat arises.
  • Scenario planning to plan for the worst-case versions of the issues that threaten your organization.
  • Technology to augment the role of the crisis professional, especially in terms of speed of response, access to information and team collaboration.
  • Crisis Team formation and training to ensure everyone knows their role and how to communicate within the team and with stakeholders when a serious issue strikes the organization.

Right now, we are all still deep in the response to Coronavirus public health crisis. 

However, it’s never too soon to begin collecting insights and ideas for what the new world of crisis communications must embrace if we are to be better prepared for the next, massive and unexpected disaster scenario.


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