From individual sources of infection to a global pandemic: crisis prevention and communication in the corona crisis

Since the number of corona infections in Northern Italy has skyrocketed at the end of February, the virus has been spreading rapidly in Europe, but also in other parts of the world outside Asia. In the first few days, companies were particularly concerned that their own operations would be named in connection with corona-positive employees and that the brand’s reputation could suffer. But the focus of crisis prevention and communication is shifting more and more. The more the number of infected people increases the less the focus will be on individual companies.

What does this mean for crisis communication?

  1. External communication is primarily about making no mistakes, demonstrating empathy and a willingness to engage in dialogue, but also credibly underpinning with measures that the health of employees is a high priority. As long as the decision-makers follow the recommendations of the authorities, they are also on the safe side in their communications.
  2. Internal communication is highly sensitive these days. People’s nervousness will continue to rise and it is therefore important that circulars, postings and intranet contributions reach and reassure employees. Examples from the past few days show how great the fear is. There are companies in which disinfectants are stolen or colleagues are stigmatized who come to work with a cold. More than ever it is therefore important to put time and care into internal communication. Companies need to convey the feeling that they have things under control, without trivialising, and that they are seriously addressing the concerns of their employees.

In addition to the communicative dimension, manufacturing companies in particular face another challenge: Is it still possible to ensure the ability to deliver even if the situation continues to deteriorate? When trade partners ask, it is also important to provide a comprehensive account of what is being done to protect against infection and prevent crises.

Daily reassessment of measures

The spread of the coronavirus presents the entire world with completely new challenges. There are hardly any blueprints and checklists for the pandemic that need to be worked through in crisis communication according to a schedule. This makes it all the more important to act intelligently and situationally and to reassess one’s own communication strategy and action planning every day.