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Is your business ready for a pandemic?

Best-case scenario is that worst-case scenarios never come to pass. But if they do, you’ll want to be prepared.

Your CEO is stuck in a rapidly implemented quarantine in Europe. The local government closes schools and urges all businesses to limit or block visitors. Your long-planned industry event that pulls together hundreds of people from locations across the country no longer seems like such a great idea.

These aren’t far-fetched scenarios. They are happening in real-time around the world as the coronavirus continues to spread.

So what does that mean for your business? You need a plan, and the right communications in place to inform your employees, customers and community about what you’re doing, and why. And just like every crisis communications plan, the real win is if you never have to implement it at all.

Here are some strategic communications recommendations you can start on today.

Anticipate likely scenarios that will affect your brand.

Is there a situation where you may have to limit public access to your offices? Reduce customer service? Reschedule meetings, events, public gatherings? Delay deliverables because raw materials aren’t arriving as scheduled? Require everyone to work from home?

You should appoint a crisis communications team now that will craft key messages; identify necessary communication materials for employees, customers and the community; and create processes to rapidly inform the right people at a moment’s notice. This communications team should have multiple people able to implement the plan in case travel, illness or quarantines become a factor.

Make sure internal and external communication is fully developed in your crisis plan.

Don’t wait until your sales team needs to inform customers about delays. Write a template response now that can be easily adapted in real time. Same concept applies to internal communications — What will your employees need to be informed about? Work from home mandates and changes in customer service schedules and processes can be anticipated and addressed in advance.

Create communication processes that will make working from home efficient and effective.

If your culture doesn’t already support working from home, that may be about to change. What communication channels, processes and procedures need to be thought through now to make sure it’s business as usual? What will replace your weekly executive team meeting? How will you convey information in a timely manner? How will you provide input and support to a team spread out across the city?

Even if you never have to use it, don’t overlook the importance of a crisis communications plan as you prepare your business for the worst-case scenario.

Cindy Miller is CEO of Cindy Miller Communications.

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