March 17, 2020 TVG Staff

Communicating in a Crisis

In these uncertain times, the news on the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is changing by the hour.  New cases are announced, new borders are closed, and new health precautions are enacted. Terms like “social distancing” and “quarantine” have become mainstream, while home schooling has an entirely new definition as many schools have closed their doors in favor of digital learning for the foreseeable future.

A pandemic is a global threat, and requires quick action and clear, concise messaging. In a crisis, there is never enough information and there is never enough time. Leaders and experts who do crisis communications the right way, release information as they have it, even if they don’t know everything.  They may know A, B and C, and they release that information while they are working to determine D, E and F.  Leaders and experts should resist the urge to hold back content and comments until they know everything.

We also know the public and the media process information differently during a crisis versus a regular news cycles on a bright, sunny day. In this age of social media with trending hashtags, instant information and yes, fake news, it is critical for leaders and experts to get content out to the public as quickly and correctly as possible. Sooner is better, but correct is vital. Content on your website, social media and even in-person should include what you are doing over and above what you do every day at the company or organization, i.e. we’ve enacted new health safety protocols, we’ve started working from home, we’ve instructed our staff to wipe down high traffic areas with hospital-grade disinfectant, etc. Give people the information and you’ll likely see short-term and long-term benefits.

Finally, in a crisis, work together. We can’t stress this enough.  All too often, we see leaders and experts give independent opinions that may differ from others, even in their own industry. How long should you boil water during a boil order? How soon should you throw food out after a power outage?  You’ll often get different answers from different audiences. Get on the same page and you’ll limit any confusion in a crisis.

Anxiety is already high enough with the stock markets fluctuating daily, the number of coronavirus cases growing and schools and businesses temporarily closing. A crisis is the time for everyone to work together. A crisis is the time to get information out there and make sure it’s right.

From crisis plans to crisis communications and even crisis training and drills, please visit or call us at 314-991-4641.  We want to help during this time of need, but we’re also practicing what we preach.  We are working from home, limiting contact and cleaning our offices, but we are also here for you. To learn the latest about coronavirus, including changing health protocols, visit


By Andy Likes, Senior Vice President at The Vandiver Group in St. Louis, Missouri


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