Back almost six months ago there was a feeling that things would progress quickly and then be wrapped up soon. After all crises never really last that long do they? The timeline for a crisis is not something that can be easily defined.
The Covid-19 pandemic is going to be with us for some time. There is no magic injection yet, and as we are seeing with the increase in positive tests in recent weeks there is no sign it is going to disappear. This leaves communicators with some serious challenges to face, but these can also be huge opportunities.
So what does it mean? The first thing that is vital for everyone is that they look at how they are. Lockdown, furlough and the other issues have put people under huge pressure and many communicators have worked long hours over a long period of time without a break. I have spoken to many in this position. When you are in this position a weekend is not enough you need to have a week to recharge. This is time away from the news, the online world and the mobile phone. In a long running situation you need to keep fit and well and ready to face the day.
The approach to communication must also be kept fresh when the crisis runs on for some time. As things change and develop so too must the communication. People will become fatigued by the impact of what has happened, and in the worst case will switch off. Now more then ever communicators must find the creativity and engagement to connect in a meaningful way.
This long running crisis must also change the way PR and communication teams work. Risk and resilience need to become part of the language of the working day. Identifying risks, managing risks and mitigating risks are all essential to do what matters, which is to minimise the impact of the crisis on people. It is not enough to just keep responding this risk management approach should be part of planning and forward thinking.
I know people will be shouting at me that they don’t have the time but if you haven’t undertaken a debrief of your initial Covid-19 response by now then you should do it now. Debriefs are critical to learning, developing and moving forward. Ultimately, this is the start of your planning for future crises and not just future Covid-19 situations.
Planning and preparing are a key part of the managing a long term crisis. Don’t think that you don’t need to get ready for the future. Use the debrief information, the feedback and any insights to keep yourself crisis ready. Being resilient is helped when you have a clear plan that is workable and up-to-date, and when people know it and their role in delivering it.
We are part way through September and at times is feels almost as if we are back in April or May. There is no point in asking ‘are we there yet?’ like we did as children on journeys with our parents. Now is the time to dig in, prepare and grasp the opportunities as we move forward.
If you need any assistance with running a debrief there is a guide that I developed with Clare Parker for the CIPR, or get in touch with me for more information firstname.lastname@example.org