As a discipline, crisis management is categorized into three phases: pre-crisis (which involves prevention and preparation); crisis response; and post-crisis (evaluation and preparation). Some crises pass quickly, and also have short post-crisis phases that are measured in days or weeks. Other crises endure longer — and, even once resolved, entail phases that can last for months or years.
Many unknowns still surround the COVID-19 pandemic, but this much is clear: Its post-crisis aftermath will continue for a long time. And just as the pandemic has called on each of us to adapt to the changes it has caused, we also have a responsibility to prepare for the post-pandemic future.
What can organizations and businesses do to equip themselves for the post-coronavirus road ahead? Here are several strategies to help you and your teams plan for what’s next, even as you continue to meet the challenges of the present:
Record crisis responses.
In the throes of dealing with a crisis, it can be difficult to make time to create a historical record of our crisis responses. But once the crisis is over, it will likely be harder and take more time to retrace our steps and fully piece together the actions we have taken.
Keeping a record gives us a valuable resource for future crisis planning. Documenting our crisis-response actions and communications will help us evaluate what worked well and what did not. A crisis-response record allows communications professionals to assess where we might have experienced disruptions or gaps and to reflect on what we could do differently next time, so that we can better prepare.
Envision the future.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected organizations of every size, in every industry.
Where companies once debated work-from-home policies, working from home has become the norm by necessity. As people have been forced to become “socially distant” from one another, business meetings and events have gone virtual.
Supply chains have been upended, forcing businesses to source with more agility. Retailers continue to modify their physical stores and delivery services to protect employees and consumers, while also significantly changing the customer experience.
When the pandemic passes, will your business go back to operating the way it had before? Or will you keep some changes because they have improved your organization?
Plan for recovery.
It might not feel like it now, but we will recover from the coronavirus and the national shutdown it caused. Now is the time to start thinking about how we will communicate and market our businesses during the recovery period.
Our target audiences and stakeholders might take time to adapt. Brands should remain sensitive, and marketing plans should be crafted to be nimble and responsive.
This is also the time to think about how we will communicate with employees in the post-pandemic environment. Getting back to business will not be business-as-usual. Proactive, open and frequent communication — with sensitivity and compassion — will be crucial. Employees will need continued coronavirus-specific messaging, updates on their organizations’ pandemic-recovery actions and communication regarding their own roles to help achieve a successful future.
So many heroes deserve our gratitude for all they have done, and all they are doing, during the pandemic: health-care professionals, emergency first responders, social workers, grocery and food staffs, truck and delivery drivers, warehouse employees, custodians and many others.
Who are the heroes — employees, customers, vendors, volunteers or donors — helping your organization weather the pandemic? As we plan for the recovery, we should also consider how our organizations will recognize and celebrate these heroes. Let’s not allow the moment pass without conveying our appreciation for everything they have done for us.
Crisis planning, innovating, adapting, marketing agilely and expressing gratitude are all important practices. Looking toward the post-pandemic road ahead gives us reason to put these practices front and center.
Jason Kirsch, APR, is partner and senior counselor at PRworks in Harrisburg, Pa. He is also an adjunct professor at York College of Pennsylvania and an instructor for PRSA’s Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) coaching program, both regionally and nationally.
Photo credit: ezphoto