Wanted for PR professionals: A Covid-19 communications protocol

My firm, Mediacraft Associates, has just received a brief regarding a situation in which news about a Covid-19-related death in one of the facilities of a corporation was ‘leaked’ outside of an internal WhatsApp forum. To give the proper context: apparently the sad news was treated as an ‘Internal Comms’ issue, and there was an internal memo from the management announcing the death of the staff, the shutting down of the facility involved, as well as other measures being taken to protect the staff and to generally address the situation.

What they did not reckon with, was the possibility that this information would eventually be leaked out to the general public, and so they had no contingency plan to deal with such an eventuality. They are now faced with a situation where such has occurred, and the news will most likely hit the mainstream media in the coming hours or days.

So, where is the problem? To begin with, given current global realities, there is nothing ‘internal’ about any Covid-19-related news, especially when it involves a fatality. Such information will invariably evoke wider interest outside the organisation, because of its implications for those who may have had contact with victims’ relations, acquaintances and/or co-workers. Also, because of the danger of stigmatisation, for both the organisation and its employees.

Back to the brief. To address it, we have decided to go into a proactive damage control mode, to take control of the narrative, as we prepare for possible negative fall-outs, if and when the news hits the ‘street’.

But this whole thing also got me thinking. Isn’t it about time every active PR professional considered crafting and adopting a specific Covid-19-related Crisis Communications Protocol for the organisations they represent – one that will essentially involve scenario forecasting and analysis, careful messaging and how to deal with the potential negative fall-outs, especially death, panic and stigmatisation?

After all, Covid-19 has eminently proven itself to be a crisis like no other.

Written by John Ehiguese, Founder/CEO, Mediacraft Associates


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