The Coronavirus COVID-19 is now officially a pandemic. That means it’s an epidemic on a global scale. While we all hope & pray that it doesn’t continue to infect individuals, companies too face immense challenges from its spread.
Airlines are empty. Cruise ships are diverting. Restaurants are thinning out. Events are being canceled. Employees of all types of companies are being asked to work from home.
There’s little a company can do to prevent the Coronavirus from affecting its bottom line, but there is one important thing that it can do, whether a business gets directly hit by COVID-19 or not: be transparent and truthful in its efforts.
The biggest reaction I see to the news that an event has been canceled or a business hunkering down for a week or two is one of disbelief over the action taken. “They’re overreacting!” “I am angry they didn’t warn us!” “It’s just the flu, grow a pair!”
As with any crisis, in the absence of transparency about a company’s actions, the media, investors, and customers fill the void with speculation. Rumors start. False info circulates. Assumptions are made.
If your company has to take action due to the Coronavirus, transparency–dare I say be Radically Transparent?–is key. Let your stakeholders know if local government pressured you to cancel your event despite your efforts to ensure safety. Assure customers that you are bringing in the very best cleaners to make sure your establishment is clean. Or, explain that you’re proud that many of your employees are retired veterans over the age of 60 and therefore it’s best they work from home. Whatever the reason, don’t hide behind the media’s mass hysteria about the Coronavirus. Instead, be truthful and frank about what’s going on, what action you are taking, and how you’re working to ensure the Coronavirus doesn’t affect your customers and employees.
In case you need an example, take Zest Cafe & Home Art. A local Raleigh store and restaurant that was informed that someone with the Coronavirus dined there. The SAME DAY it was notified, Zest closed its doors, scrubbed down, and, perhaps just as importantly, was transparent in announcing its actions to its customers.
Until we see the Coronavirus numbers drop, companies are urged to take an “abundance of caution.” I also urge you to take an abundance of transparency to reassure your stakeholders and protect your reputation from long-term damage.