N E W S & B L O G
Please note: We send out a lot of press releases...these are just the highlights! If you're looking for more specific work examples, shoot an email to email@example.com.
Note: This blog post was originally published by Killette Communications on LinkedIn.
As COVID-19 cases rise in Florida, businesses of all kinds are dealing with how to respond to positive diagnoses among their staff. The CDC requires companies to disclose positive cases to their employees, but there is little guidance on whether B2C companies must also share this information with the public.
From my point of view as a public relations professional, the answer is always yes -- customer-facing companies should disclose if an employee has been diagnosed with the virus. It’s the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, and it’s simply smart business.
All it takes for the word to get out is for one employee to tell another person who then sends a tip to the press or starts a thread on Twitter calling your company out. It’s always best to get ahead of the story and control your own message before a reporter with the local newspaper pops into your inbox or angry DMs begin to flood your social media.
But how you communicate your side of the story is critical.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve advised several B2C clients on how to communicate about positive COVID-19 cases to both the public and the press. Here are my top three takeaways:
1. Respond quickly and honestly.
From what I’ve seen, when companies post on social media about an employee testing positive for COVID-19, the response is mostly appreciative. However, one thing people tend to get hung up on is how long a company waits to share the information.
One local restaurant waited eight days after an employee tested positive to share the news on their social media. Not only were the commenters enraged by this, but just about every news outlet in the Tampa Bay area picked the story up.
Had this restaurant shared the information sooner and communicated with the public more strategically, they likely would have faced much less negativity.
Another reason to respond quickly is to stay ahead of the rumor mill and control your own message. If your customers find out about an outbreak at your establishment via an article shared on Facebook instead of straight from your mouth, they are going to feel deceived. Avoid the headache, and be up front with your audience. While it may lead to a temporary dip in business, your customers will ultimately appreciate and respect your transparency.
2. Be clear about the precautions you’re taking.
Use social media to tell your customers everything you are doing to keep them safe. Do this even if you haven’t had an outbreak yet. That way, if and when you do have an employee test positive, you can point back to the precautions you’ve been taking since day one.
Show that you are going above-and-beyond by doing more than what the state and the CDC recommend for your business. If you can feasibly close for a week to have your whole staff tested, do it. If you can’t swing that, but can at least close for a day to perform rigorous sanitation, do it. And in either case, be sure to quickly communicate that extra step to your followers.
In most situations I’ve seen, employees are contracting the virus outside of the workplace, on their own time. If you can assure your customers that an infected employee caught COVID-19 through an isolated incident, that will help bring peace of mind that the precautions you’re taking are effective in preventing spread within your place of business.
3. Create content to spread awareness and counter negativity.
Now is the time to take advantage of the resources you have available to create engaging, informative content that promotes the steps you’re taking to keep your staff and guests safe.
Social media is a great tool for this, and there is so much more you can do than post a list of safety precautions. Consider creating an engaging video that shows an employee completing a health screening and masking up. Or, hop on Facebook Live to show customers how to use your new contactless pickup method. (Just make sure everyone’s mask is on properly before you start the video. Hint: it should cover your nose.)
In addition to social media, use your website, email marketing platform and any other digital resources you regularly use to promote your business to spread awareness of your safety protocols. Anyone can require their employees to wear a mask and wash their hands -- it’s how you show your company’s commitment to these steps that will help you stand out.
Bonus Tip: Work with a professional.
Your company could be doing all the right things to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, but if you fail to communicate properly, it could lead to undeserved backlash and negativity that significantly hurts your business. A public relations expert who is experienced in crisis communication and strategic messaging can help you communicate in a way that earns your customers’ appreciation and respect.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how Killette Communications can help.