The responses to the COVID-19 virus by governments, the public, the travel industry and other stakeholders have ranged from complacency to panic. How should corporations be responding?
First and foremost, corporations should be treating this as a crisis and engaging their crisis processes to manage it. It is a crisis because it has the potential to significantly impact the corporation; how it will continue to develop is still highly unpredictable; and many factors are beyond the corporation’s control. In a highly volatile situation, it is essential that the company is seen to be in control and out in front of possible developments in order to maintain its reputation and ensure the safety of its people, the environment and its assets.
Prudent over-reaction is the right response for all organizations.
Here are the top five things every organization should be doing now:
Engage your crisis team and crisis management process. This is the appropriate group to be monitoring the situation and deciding on priorities and actions.
Review your stakeholder mapping and understand how the crisis is impacting your stakeholders: Employees and consumers may be the most obvious stakeholders, but in this crisis government authorities are a critical stakeholder.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Organizations needs to establish themselves as the source of authoritative news on how the organization is impacted so that unnecessary scares and misinformation are avoided. Communicate regularly, commit to transparency and even when there is nothing new to say, repeat the messages again on a regular basis. Use every available channel to get the messages through to your stakeholders.
Plan for the worst: Things may well get worse before they get better. While the initial public health issue may be coming under control in countries like China and Singapore, the consequences of the disruption to business and the movement of people are yet to be fully apparent. Use your crisis scenario planning and business continuity plans to think through worst case scenarios. Be ready to engage the resources you will need to respond fast. This may mean bringing forward actions such as allowing employees to work from home or even suspending certain activities in the highest risk areas.
The safety of people comes first: Make sure any action you take to protect the organization has put people’s safety first. This is the best way to protect the organization’s reputation regardless of what happens next.
Now is the time to take the returns on your investment in training and planning against a crisis.
Contact us if you need support, we are here to help.
This article originally appeared on the CS&A International website.
About the author
Cathy Heeley is a Singapore-based associate with CS&A International. With more than 20 years' experience working with a top-tier Australian law firm as well as in-house legal counsel with Kraft Foods, Mondelez International, Croda and Syngenta covering Asia Pacific, she brings a wide range of skills in crisis management. She has managed crises involving government regulators in law enforcement, tax, customs, food safety, corruption, religion, plant safety and labor relations in the food and chemicals industries.
CS&A International is a niche risk, crisis and business continuity management firm servicing clients globally. Specialising in crisis anticipation, detection, prevention and mitigation, CS&A is devoted to the mission of helping organisations enhance their crisis resilience by delivering customised best practice solutions and services. Our deep expertise across industry sectors includes audits, process development, training and exercises as well as tools designed to continuously add value to our clients’ crisis readiness programmes.
Founded in Hong Kong in 1991, CS&A’s team of experts operate globally from key locations in Asia, Europe and North America.