July has come and gone, and one thing remains abundantly clear: the life-changing events that enveloped the world earlier this year are not going away. ‘The new normal’ has become, just, ‘the normal’. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to permeate and evolve across business and society, companies must be agile and prepared in making plans for the immediate future. Now more than ever, the short-term effects of growing case numbers are indeterminable, and it is vital that employers offer clear and comprehensive messaging to their employees, stakeholders and customers to keep them up-to-date on policies and recommendations. Times of uncertainty, such as this one, reveal the true purpose of leadership: to offer direction, guidance and care to others.

Whether a major corporation or a mom-and-pop shop, companies must prioritize their communications, planning for: workplace fluidity and adapted product offerings; mental health resources and other support for a variety of audiences; considerate, honest correspondence both internally and externally; formalized safety policies to ensure the care of consumers and employees; and more. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting your plan, but strong brand communications remain of the utmost importance as we continue to adapt to an ever-changing business culture.

Preparing for future challenges begins with asking yourself questions to determine your company’s current state, and then pinpointing what you want to achieve if and when unknown circumstances present themselves. Ask the right questions to determine the appropriate messages for your audience; key challenges and considerations; deliverables; and how to measure the success of your communication efforts.

Operational Policies

When it comes to your business’s operations, there are likely many lessons you learned during the initial implementation of pandemic restrictions earlier this year. As you apply these key learnings to your current plan, think about how you will accommodate to altered sales channels, storefront policies and more.

  • Are there elements of your operational plan that worked well during the first shutdown? How can you emulate this again or pivot to accommodate the second wave of infections? 
  • What did not work as you changed operations during the first shutdown? How can you use these lessons to better manage the opening and closing of your business during a second wave of infections?
  • How will you decide if your facilities need to close again?
  • Are you prepared to have zero or partial presence in the traditional workplace through the end of the year? Or beyond?
  • Will you have to go through a round/another round of layoffs and/or furloughs?
  • How will you preserve your employees’ confidence in leadership as plans to return to the office fluctuate and change? What platforms are you utilizing to communicate these changes to your employees?
  • How will you preserve your consumers’ confidence in your company as procedures and protocols shift over time? What platforms are you utilizing to communicate the latest plans with your customers?
  • Would it be helpful to collaborate with competitors or like-minded businesses as you adjust your plans for engaging with employees and customers?

Employee Safety and Wellbeing

Whether your workforce has re-entered the traditional workplace or remained remote, the responsibilities of your employees have likely evolved, both at home and at work, and flexibility will be key. Leadership must recognize these altered needs and accommodate to unforeseen complications in physical health, mental health and workload.

  • Do you have an internal communications plan in place that will allow important and timely information to permeate the entire company?
  • How will you keep your employees informed on cleaning policies, social distancing requirements and other measures you are taking to keep your facilities safe? How will you ensure they implement these measures properly?
  • If an employee does not follow your set safety policies, will you implement any repercussions? How will you communicate these to show a culture of care?
  • Do you have a restructured flexible work policy that covers employees with different needs, such as employees with children and employees with underlying health conditions?
  • Have you updated your mental health policy to include responses to coronavirus-related employee needs? What mental health resources are available to your employees as they navigate returning to the workplace, or transitioning back to remote working? 
  • Will you establish an employee safety and well-being resource group (or activate an existing one) to engage employees of all levels in planning?
  • Are there any supplies or resources you can share with your employees to prepare them for a potential resurgence?

Legal/Government Considerations

Recommendations, guidelines and laws have varied greatly across cities, states and nations. Be sure you are consistently monitoring these complex nuances and implementing the appropriate measures at each of your facilities. If your business has established more strict parameters than what is required by law, be sure you communicate these efficiently to all audiences.

  • Are you aware of the differences between laws and mandates among your state and municipality?
  • Do you have a point-person to continuously monitor government restrictions and regulations on business openings?
  • Do you have a point-person to monitor how authorities are enforcing safety measure violations in your area? Keep in mind that these guidelines vary from state to state.
  • Have you consulted legal counsel to identify and prepare for any potential risks?
  • Have you prepared for the possibility of worker’s-comp or other coronavirus-related employee lawsuits?
  • Do your employees belong to a union that might make certain demands or requests?
  • Do you have a plan in place if any employees or customers were exposed to COVID-19 while in your facility?

Customer Safety and Wellbeing

Simply put, your customers are the cornerstones of your success. To preserve their loyalty, you must continue to prioritize their safety, as well as their knowledge of your business, through consist communication and ease of interaction.

  • Do you have communications channels established to ensure fluid interactions with customers? Do those channels extend to social media?
  • Do customers know how to get in touch with you?
  • Do you have a page on your website devoted to COVID-19 updates?
  • How will you keep your customers informed on cleaning policies, social distancing requirements and other measures you are taking to keep them, your employees and your facilities safe?
  • If a customer does not follow your set safety policies, will you implement any repercussions? How will you keep your customers’ trust and diminish fear of being apprehended? 
  • Does your stance on safety change the customer experience or product you offer? How will you positively communicate your adapted product/service? Also take into account if your supply chain will be affected.
  • Can you provide any mental health resources to your consumers or stakeholders if they are in need (i.e. if your customers are students, parents, essential workers, etc.)?

How We Can Help 

Once you’ve defined a plan for your organization, you’ll need to effectively share it with your various audiences. Our team at Jackson Spalding can help you determine the best tactics to ensure that your updated policies and practices are communicated clearly and intentionally. 

Whether you need email copywriting, a video message from your CEO or thoughtfully-crafted social media content, we can provide you with guidance on how to reach your stakeholders in a compelling format – and help you bring the vision to life. 

Reach out to coronavirus@jacksonspalding.com to engage our experts.