As a discipline, crisis management is categorized into three phases: pre-crisis (prevention and preparation), crisis response, and post-crisis (evaluation and better preparation).
Some crises pass quickly and the post-crisis phase is measured in days or weeks. Some crises endure and the post-crisis phase is measured in months or years.
There are still so many unknowns concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, but this much is clear: the post-crisis stage of this crisis is going to last a long time. And just as the pandemic has called upon each of us to adapt in this moment, it is incumbent on us to start looking ahead to be ready for the post-pandemic future.
What can we, as business owners and leaders, do to prepare for the road ahead? PRworks, a public relations and marketing firm in Harrisburg, offers these strategies to help you and your teams plan for what’s next, even as you continue to rise above the challenges of the present:
Keep a Record of Your Response
In the throes of dealing with a crisis, it can be difficult to make time to create a historical record of your crisis response. But it will likely be harder and take more time, once the crisis is over, to retrace your steps and fully piece together the actions that you took.
Your historical record will be a valuable resource for future crisis planning.
By documenting your crisis response actions and communications now, you will have what you need to evaluate what worked well and what did not; to assess where you experienced disruption or gaps; and to reflect on what you would do differently and how to better prepare.
Envision Your ‘New Normal’
Businesses and organizations of every size, in every industry, have been affected by the pandemic.
Where there were once debates over work-from-home policies, working from home is the norm out of necessity. Meetings and events have gone virtual, as we have had to become socially distant. Supply chains have been upended, forcing businesses to source with more agility. Retailers continue to make modifications to physical stores and delivery services, protecting their employees and consumers but at the same time significantly changing the customer experience.
When the pandemic passes, will your business go back to operating the way it had before? Are there changes you will keep because they have made your organization better?
Plan for the Recovery
It may not feel like it now. It may not feel like it for a while. But we will begin to recover from this. Now is the time to start thinking about how to market your business when we enter that recovery period.
Keep in mind that we will be entering a period of adjustment, and it may take time for your target audiences and stakeholders to adapt. As such, brands should remain sensitive, and marketing plans should be crafted to be nimble and responsive.
Now is also the time to think about how you will communicate with employees in the post-pandemic environment. Getting back to business may not be business-as-usual. Proactive, open and frequent communication – with sensitivity and compassion – will be critical.
Employees will need continued coronavirus-specific messaging, updates on your organization’s pandemic recovery actions, and communication on their role in achieving a successful future state.
Recognize the Heroes
So many people deserve our gratitude for all they have done, and all they are doing, during the pandemic. Healthcare staff, grocery and food supply staff, truck and delivery drivers, warehouse staff, custodial staff, first responders, counselors, social workers, teachers, food service staff, convenience store staff, news reporters — these individuals and more are heroes.
Who are the heroes who are helping your organization weather the pandemic? The employees, customers, vendors, volunteers, donors and others?
As you plan for the recovery, consider how your organization will recognize and celebrate heroes. Don’t let the moment pass without conveying appreciation for their contributions.
Crisis planning, innovating and adapting, agile marketing, expressing gratitude — these are all important business practices universally, without exception. Looking toward the post-pandemic road ahead gives us reason to pause and make sure these practices are front and center.
Jason Kirsch is partner and senior counselor at PRworks in Harrisburg. He also is an adjunct professor at York College of Pennsylvania and an instructor for the Public Relations Society of America’s Accreditation in Public Relations coaching program regionally and nationally. Contact Jason via www.prworksinc.com.