4 F’s for the COVID-19 virus

When it comes to responding to this health crisis, communicators must ensure that their message is fast, frequent, factual and flexible.

4 F's of coronavirus comms

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues its tragic march, disrupting business, travel and everyday activities, every organization should be prepared to use the 4 F’s as a guide to ensure that critical messages are sent to important stakeholders: fast, frequent, factual and flexible.

Here’s what each of those F’s mean:

Fast: If a business relies on China for its supply chain, it’s obvious that quick communications about a potential disruption is important. The same goes for a company with an unbroken supply chain, because consumers might assume there is a problem. Fast messages can reassure customers that “all systems are go.” School districts might need to rapidly reach parents and students. An organization needs fast updates directed to employees who are working in impacted countries. Since rumors spread at the speed of light, getting news from a company before fearmongering hits social media builds trust, and employees will turn to the company first for future information.

Frequent: Imagine sitting at the gate of a delayed flight. Radio silence from the airline agents contributes to the uncertainty and makes the wait seem longer. Frequent updates demonstrate transparency and creates more trust. More outreach during challenging times will help a business recapture the trust of customers when things return back to normal.

Factual:  It’s best not to hedge, predict or exaggerate and be as upfront as possible. What are your customer’s questions? Try and answer as many as possible. Numbers matter. Don’t state more than you know or can confirm.

Flexible: It’s obvious that in a crisis such as COVID-19, events and facts are constantly changing. An organization needs to be flexible in what it says and how messages are delivered. At the beginning, it may be personal phone calls or an email. As things change, it may be necessary to use all outbound social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter or even post a video on YouTube.

A complete and up-to-date crisis communications plan will help make the 4F’s far more effective.

Andrew Gilman is CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, a crisis communications firm based in Washington, D.C. 

Dale Weiss is senior vice president at CommCore Consulting Group, and executive producer of CommCore’s PressureTest™ Crisis Simulation.

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