An opening acknowledgment: If you’re reading this blog post as it’s posted, we are in the midst of navigating a pandemic. Operations are changing, and methods to alleviate the risk of further spreading COVID-19 are evolving. We acknowledge that the recommendations included below may be challenging or even impossible to institute in current circumstances. But it is our hope that you can use them now, at least partially, and can apply them in the future should you ever need to use them again.
From my perspective, the irony of social distancing is the collective nature of the action. If we all isolate ourselves simultaneously, we can prevent the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable populations. There is an undeniable sense of camaraderie in it all.
As businesses work to align with CDC and WHO guidelines to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing adjusted practices. This requires undeniable sacrifices on the part of the business community – but it is widespread collective action, in any crisis situation, that ultimately brings communities through.
The decisions you make for the ultimate well-being of your staff, customers and community, in spite of losses, are the core of your business’s public relations. Without these decisions, you have nothing to communicate.
- In a time of natural crisis, seek unique ways to adjust your services.
Every crisis is different – natural disasters can make travel impossible or limit access to business essentials like electricity. Our current pandemic mandates that individuals distance themselves from other people and avoid public places. Depending upon the circumstances, work to adjust your services to meet the needs of the public. B2B businesses might offer telecommunication or after-hours support. Nonprofits can seek nontraditional ways to render essential services or raise funds. Restaurants can transition to delivery models. Work within your space to adjust services to meet the needs of your customers.
- In a time of natural crisis, consider how your business can support collective efforts to protect your community.
During times of crisis, communities often create cultural movements to address specific community needs. Whether you’re a B2B organization, a nonprofit or a restaurant, there are ways that you can support those collective efforts. Work with your leadership to devise ways you can align with community guidelines and cultural movements, even if they’re not mandated by local officials. Communicate these changes as they happen (maybe they have a hashtag or other slogan you can use to show that you’re joining the movement), and give clear directives to your audiences about why you’ve made these decisions and how they can join. The public will notice.
- If you’re less affected, step up and support businesses bearing burdens.
Each crisis will affect industries differently. Physical natural disasters impact a path of businesses and physical locations. Medical crises affect the public’s ability to access a wide range of services. Regardless, there will always be an unequal distribution of burdens. If your business can still function, work to help alleviate the needs of businesses with heavier loads to bear. Maybe you can offer pro-bono services or transition to digital services. Do what you can to help businesses out that are struggling, and do it without expecting anything in return. This part of being a community-minded business.