By Rachel Peck
As communicators, we have a responsibility to disseminate information responsibly, both internally and externally. With the constant stream of news, and “social media reporters,” it’s easy to get caught up in the panic that accompanies an overwhelming amount of negative information. However, both professionally and personally, it’s our duty as responsible PR professionals to take a step back, evaluate the information available and circulate only that which serves our audience – facts only and free of scare tactics. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re being a responsible communicator both externally and internally:
Only deal with the facts
We’ve all seen the articles shared on social media regarding the shortages of essentials, or had our loved ones send us the latest home-remedies for possible illness. However, before we start eating whole cloves of garlic and panic buying toilet paper, we should stop and ask ourselves if this information is based on fact, and whether it serves us to share or act upon it. Communications professionals know, more than anyone, how information travels, how it gains speed and can take over. However, it’s also up to us to sift through this information, acknowledging it, while being responsible with our dissemination and handling of it.
Stop marketing and start outreaching
While the demand for content has never been higher, it’s important to balance any current marketing or content creation efforts with the outlook of your audience. The story is changing every day, so consider reevaluating your content for the next few weeks. Yes, people want articles, blogs and social media content that’s not COVID-19 focused, however, it’s also a major disruptor of nearly everyone’s personal and professional life. Instead, focus on how your business can contribute in a way that makes sense for your business model. Whether it’s providing working from home tips and resources, to buying gift certificates to local restaurants or volunteering services in some way – focus on outreach to your community, audience and employees.
Keep lines of communication open
Before the pandemic days, working from home and its risks of social isolation were already being widely discussed. Now, as we professionally and personally isolate ourselves, it’s more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open with coworkers and employees. A special report from Edelman’s Trust Barometer showed employers are one of their employees’ top sources for credible information. If you’re an employer, recognize that your employees will be looking to you for information and reassurance in a time of global instability. Practice responsible communication by being transparent and simply making yourself available can go a long way. Employees will have questions about what might happen if they become sick and can’t work or if they’re not able to work from home and need to self-quarantine for the safety of others. They might even have more long-term questions.
Overall, simply acknowledging fears, both externally and internally, can go a long way, but if you don’t have a comprehensive crisis communications plan in place, now is the time to evaluate that. Responsible crisis communications is also about being prepared and ready to answer the tough questions with facts and actionable ideas for the benefit of your employees, audiences and communities.