As a public relations firm specializing in health care, nonprofit, law firm and professional services PR, we know firsthand the communications challenges facing organizations of all sizes as a result of COVID-19. We are excited to launch an ‘Adapting to the New Normal’ blog series featuring PR tips and communications advice for navigating the new business climate.
Reopening Communication Questions
As some states begin to ease stay-at-home requirements, businesses are beginning to consider reopening. However, it is hard to know if we are still in the first wave or if and when we might see a second wave of COVID-19. The situation seems to change on a daily (if not hourly) basis, so it can be difficult to determine how to communicate with your employees, clients and stakeholders about your reopening plans.
One thing is clear. Your COVID-19 reopening communications plan must address what your audiences will be most worried about:
- Will I be safe if I come back to work?
- Will I be safe if I come to your office?
- How will you keep me safe?
- What happens if I don’t feel safe?
- What happens if I get sick?
While updates on new operating hours and service availability are important to share, communicators are now also tasked with conveying information about safety plans to protect customers and team members and limit the spread of COVID-19.
Drafting a COVID-19 Reopening Communications Plan
When drafting your communications plan for the next few months, keep these tips in mind.
Create and share a detailed safety plan
The safety of your clients and team members should be your top priority right now. Before reopening, it is essential that you craft a detailed safety plan outlining the processes and procedures you will implement.
Once you have created a master safety plan, break up the components into client-facing information and internal information and tailor the plan for each audience. For example, a law firm that is taking a phased approach to reopening their office should have an internal safety plan that outlines all protocols in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 such as switching from shared kitchen cutlery to single-use options, creating one-way traffic flows in hallways and staggering work schedules to limit the number of employees in the office. This internal safety plan should be shared with employees via email and discussed in-person or virtually prior to reopening to give employees the opportunity to ask questions.
External communications plans will not need to include as much behind-the-scenes information but should instead focus on the distancing and cleaning efforts taking place to protect clients. It is also essential to include information about requirements that will be asked of clients when they visit your location like wearing a mask or undergoing a temperature check before entering. Using the same law firm example, an external safety plan might include information about what to expect when coming to a meeting in-person at the office like distancing requirements and mask wearing, in addition to information about how the firm is working to keep the office clean including strategies like daily sanitizations or the installation of specialized air filters.
Communicate frequently on multiple channels
Once you have created your internal and external safety plans to accompany your reopening announcement, it’s time to make sure you are sharing this information on all available communications channels.
Be sure to maximize your outreach by creating content for each of these channels.
When you are ready to begin reopening, your email marketing newsletter is one of your most valuable assets. Create an email marketing series that provides regular updates on the phases of your reopening plan and what clients can expect in each phase. In this situation, transparency and overcommunication are key. Provide as many details as you can about safety procedures and let customers know that you will be in touch frequently to share updates.
Customer Service Channels
Thoroughly brief all client-facing representatives on your reopening plans and safety protocols. As the first line of your business, these team members should be prepared to share how you are protecting your team and clients, answer questions about what is required when visiting your place of business and share updates on your phased reopening plan.
Create a dedicated COVID-19 update page on your website. If possible, include a banner on your homepage highlighting the page and your reopening information. This page should include information on your reopening date, hours, requirements to enter your place of business and your external-facing safety plan. Be sure to list when the page was last updated so clients know how up-to-date the information is. Aim to update the page each week with any new information and audit the page for outdated content.
Share information about reopening dates, hours and available services as you prepare to open your doors again. Schedule a series of posts and graphics to ensure your reach is as broad as possible. Encourage customers in person and on your other channels to follow your social media pages to get the latest updates on your reopening.
Text message campaigns have high open rates, making them an important channel to utilize as you announce your reopening plans. Develop a campaign series that announces your reopening date and safety protocols, a message to let clients know when you have reopened and regular updates on operating status and procedures.
Be Honest About the Unknown
Transparency is key right now, so be sure to be honest in all communications you send out. In a rapidly changing situation like the pandemic, clients do not expect you to have all of the answers but they do expect you to be open about how you are handling business operations. Let clients know that your plans are subject to change as the situation continues to evolve and that you will continuously monitor developments to ensure that your policies keep employees and clients as safe as possible.
If you encounter an issue like an employee who tests positive, do not try to cover up the situation. Instead, quickly inform clients who may have had potential exposure and let them know the steps you are taking to mitigate the situation as much as possible. For example, if a nonprofit employee comes to work and later tests positive for COVID-19, the nonprofit should immediately notify employees, stakeholders and clients who may have been exposed. The nonprofit would also want to share information about other steps they are taking to reduce the potential for transmission such as moving to virtual services for a period of time, undergoing a deep cleaning or asking exposed employees and clients not to come on-site until a 14-day quarantine period has passed.
Successfully Reopening Under COVID-19
Creating a successful COVID-19 reopening communications plan will require collaboration between your communications and operations teams to share detailed information about your safety plans and procedures. All available communications channels should be utilized to reach as many internal and external audiences as possible. Above all, communications should be honest and frequent, acknowledging that this is a rapidly changing situation and that your organization is staying up-to-date and prioritizing safety.
If you need help crafting your reopening communications plan, we are offering a free one-hour consultation session to provide feedback and recommendations on your plan. Click here to schedule your consultation.