Because of the coronavirus, the first wave of crisis communications started in March and continued into April. What started with “an abundance of caution” led to a slew of communicating bad news like event cancellations, layoff notices, positive tests, closures and even deaths.
Then came some stability in May, as cases waned and “pivots” took hold.
What we’re seeing now is the definitive “second wave” of crisis communications that is testing even the most seasoned business people. Some of them just aren’t going to make it unless they get the right advice from professionals long experienced in the fundamentals, who know how to parse the nuances of audiences and balance communications with legal considerations, working as part of a mutually respectful team. It would take a consensus of sociologists and psychologists to determine exactly what is happening and why. But it’s clear to those of us “on the ground” that something is happening as the result of the past four months.
In recent weeks, we have been a part of or closely observed scenarios that would have tested the limits of the imagination when otherwise devising hypothetical situations for media training situations:
-A business owner who woke up one morning to hundreds overnight of social media postings from strangers who suggested that other strangers “cancel” his business, because of a late night photo, posted on Facebook
-A cyber attack on a community nonprofit, with all of its employees working from home
-Multiple job-shedding reorganizations of companies that were humming along profitably in February
-Allegations from former employees, who now have the time and audience, to launch vindictive efforts against high-profile employers
-Violent altercations in places of business, including those that started in routine fashion, like the gun pointing image from here in Michigan seen around the world.
Those are just a few examples. It doesn’t take long into a local newscast or scan of a news website to see many more extensions of the multiple crises and challenges testing our society at once: COVID-19’s dual health and economic debacles, attention toward and emotion surrounding racial injustice and, on top of that, intense political division in advance of Election Day.
Regardless of how health experts map the virus, the “second wave” of crisis is here. This is a time to see, first-hand, what a highly-specialized segment of PR crisis communications really is. It’s also a moment when the airing and fine tuning of strategy, including ideas that may have never fit in the past, can be vital. Be prepared with the right team in place and expect plenty of time on Zoom and conference calls to get it right.