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The Five Vaccines for Your Crisis Communications during the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic crisis has held Thailand
and the whole world captive. The overall impact of the pandemic continues to evolve
across a range of health consequences, economic effects, political exposure,
and personal concerns reflecting social impact and family concerns. 
Should current trends continue, companies and organizations will
need to plan accordingly for a variety of scenarios representing escalations in
this situation.

As one of the global leading communications agencies, FleishmanHillard is advising clients in several major industry sectors on how to evaluate expectations and communicate in this evolving global situation. Through a 'COVID-19 Crisis Communication Taskforce’, its crisis counselors from more than 80 offices around the world have continuously updated their clients with updates and recommendation on the ever-changing situation. FleishmanHillard Thailand’s Senior Vice President, Partner and GM, Sophis Kasemsahasin urges companies to take on these five strategic vaccines for their Crisis Communications.

Vaccine 1: Take a stakeholder-centric approach

When communicating during this ongoing outbreak, companies must
understand the diverse, and sometimes conflicting, needs and concerns of
their stakeholders. These
stakeholder groups include employees, contractors, customers, partner organizations,
local communities, public health authorities, community leaders, policymakers, and
others.

Vaccine 2: Defer to global and local authorities, and do not underestimate the situation

Because this situation is bigger than any one organization or institution; Companies
should embrace the reality that everyone is facing this situation together. International, national, and
local health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Public Health Ministry,
Department of Disease Control, the Cabinet, the Government, and any strategic
announcement can be relied upon for the most accurate and up-to-date guidance on how companies and
individuals can prevent potential infections.

Vaccine 3: Use values, empathy, and accountability as decision-making guides

As in any situation that puts the interests of an organization and its constituencies at risk, values are a critical element of decision making. More than ever before, organizations are expected to operate with a sense of purpose, balancing the interests of all stakeholders. It is important for management teams to demonstrate empathy and accountability as they make decisions that will potentially affect health and economic outcomes.

Vaccine 4: Accept imperfect information. Decide quickly and communicate clearly

Inconsistent, delayed, inaccurate, contradictory information
has been and will continue to be, a characteristic of this situation. Clarify your organization’s decision-making process and participants,
with local, regional, and global grants of authority. It is often true that communications needs
drive management’s
choices in critical situations. However, beware of fake news, or rumor during the rush of
decision making, as the consequences could be adding panic to the already
constant uncertain situation.

Anticipate that the demand for information and announcements
about changes in travel policy, operational schedules, sick day and family
leave policies and other developments that affect the Business Continuity Plan will
compress decisions.

Vaccine 5: Recognize the potential for complications and opposition

Even though humanity is “all in this together” in the face of this new global health threat, some opponents or special interests will take advantage or act defensively. For example, organized labor unions may wish to speak directly to the public on behalf of your employees’ health risks. Competitors may spread rumors about your supply chain or service capacity. Business partners or governments in affected locations may disagree with your characterization of their situation or health response. Where possible, consider previewing communications with other parties in the spirit of cooperation. If not, at least play out the potential reaction of your traditional opponents or other interested parties. How can what you are saying be taken the wrong way or out of context? Don’t make it easier for them.

Potential Questions to be Asked   There are ten important questions that each organization should   ask itself:   Has   your business established a cross-functional working group to address escalations in this   situation?Does   your business have an approved pandemic plan?Who   are the stakeholders your business should be concerned about? What   are your stakeholders’   immediate concerns? Are   your employees able to work from home? What   does your business tell sick employees? Is   your business seeing an economic impact as a result of this situation? Have   you experienced or are you at risk of a supply chain disruption? Does   your business have any internal or external events or gatherings planned in   the next three months?How   does your business navigate the situation in the midst of conflicting   information?                                  

About FleishmanHillard

FleishmanHillard
specializes in public relations, reputation management, crisis communications, public
affairs, brand marketing, digital strategy, social engagement and content
strategy. FleishmanHillard was named 2019 PRWeek
U.S. Outstanding
Large Agency; 2019 Holmes Report North America Large
Agency of the Year; ICCO Network of the Year – Americas
2017-2019; Agency of the Year at the 2017
and 2018 North American Excellence Awards; 2018 Large Consultancy of the Year by PRWeek UK; PR News’ Best
Places to Work in PR 2016-2018;
Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality for 2018
and 2019; PR Awards Asia 2017 Greater
China Agency of the Year; and NAFE’s
“Top Companies for Executive Women” for
2010-2019. The
firm’s award-winning
work is widely heralded, including at the Cannes International Festival of
Creativity. FleishmanHillard is part of Omnicom Public
Relations Group, and has more than 80 offices in 30 countries, plus affiliates in 43 countries.