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Cybersteel Inc.
376-293 City Road, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Communication in times of the corona virus

In contrast to other cases, there is no simple evaluation here. On the one hand, there are signs of a classic crisis, which can have far-reaching consequences for any company:

  • It is an exceptional situation that threatens business continuity. Stakeholders look very closely at the company in question. There is a situation of intensified observation.
  • The company has to provide answers as quickly as possible on how to deal with the situation, even though it may not have sufficient information itself => gap between communicative supply and demand.
  • The resources that are normally available for daily business are busy with the crisis.

On the other hand, however, there are also special features that distinguish crisis communication in times of the corona virus:

  • This is to be classified as force majeure => There is no "culprit" and thus no loss of reputation that has to be fought from the beginning.
  • The expectations of the stakeholders are neutral. The communicative "seed capital" is thus significantly greater than in the case of a (seemingly or actually self-inflicted) crisis.
  • There is usually understanding on the stakeholder side for delays and failures.

Our recommendation is clearly to communicate in the current situation as in a classic crisis:

Some companies are reluctant to make public statements on the Corona crisis. Who wants to be associated with a crisis topic? This is comprehensible and understandable.

But only at first glance! Because all companies are dealing with the same crisis. So it is not a reputational risk to position oneself publicly on "Corona" and how to deal with it.

There is only one such risk: if the company "ducks away" and pretends that it has nothing to do with the corona virus. Those who remain silent leave it to others to interpret their own actions - with a correspondingly uncertain outcome.
The communicative handling of "corona" thus becomes a reputation factor. This does not mean to communicate excessively intensively with Corona. This is not credible and tends to go down badly, as it could give the impression that the crisis is being used to raise the profile of the company.

Rather, it means communicating openly, transparently and credibly on how to deal with Corona. On demand anyway, but also active on a selective basis (especially in the consulting business). This also and especially applies when you don't know what to say yourself. Then a "We are monitoring the situation, working on solutions and will present them by the deadline" helps.

Because especially in the first phase, the attitude is at least as important as the content.
Conclusion: Through their communication behaviour, companies themselves can significantly influence how long a crisis lasts and how intense it is and what damage to their reputation it causes - or not.

The central Do's in the event of a crisis:

  • Authentic and consistent communication: Putting what is said into practice.
  • Think of all stakeholders, especially the customers.
  • Putting the right messages at the right time.
  • Acting in a dialogical way and keeping it up.
  • Fill key positions and define clear responsibilities.
  • Optimize internal information channels.

Dirk-Arne Walckhoff
+49 (0)69 9712 47-42

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