In April of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to have major impacts on America, the Centers for DIsease Control and Prevention created the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) Overview for COVID-19. Designed to assist the public with making informed decisions during the pandemic and other challenging and time-sensitive situations, the CERC overview provides six core principles that help ensure resources are well-managed and those using them can put them to the best uses possible.
As the one year anniversary of the pandemic’s global shutdown draws near, it's so important for organizations to proactively prepare for future crises. The COVID-19 pandemic hit many organizations hard, and if they had been better prepared to analyze and defend against the resulting issues, maybe the business outcomes wouldn’t have been as devastating.
According to these six CERC principles, this is how your organization can better handle crises in 2021:
“Crises are time sensitive. Communicating information quickly is crucial. For members of the public, the first source of information often becomes the preferred source.”
In times of crisis, it’s important to realize that decisions are made fairly quickly. Know who the most reliable sources of information are so you can update and share what you know with your audience as soon as it becomes available.
“Accuracy establishes credibility. Information can include what is known, what is not known, and what is being done to fill in the gaps.”
While it is crucial to be quick when sharing important information, keep in mind that making sure your information is accurate and applicable is more important. Accurate information builds trust and helps to solidify your organization as a good source of information.
“Crises create harm, and the suffering should be acknowledged in words. Addressing what people are feeling, and the challenges they face, builds trust and rapport.”
As we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, crises are devastating. Some people are dealt a harder hand than others, so it’s important to be cognizant of that fact when sharing information. If possible, tailor your information to the specific audiences who need it most.
“Giving people meaningful things to do calms anxiety, helps restore order, and promotes some sense of control.”
If your audience or your staff comes to you for guidance through crises, that means they are looking for actionable steps to protect themselves and/or their own organizations. Offering tips and tricks, steps to take or other instructions could ease burdens and help restore some semblance of order.
“Respectful communication is particularly important when people feel vulnerable. Respectful communication promotes cooperation and rapport.”
Like during the COVID-19 pandemic, emotions are high during crises. Stay respectful and aware of other’s situations when sharing information or tips, and be open to hearing feedback. As an organization leader, this could be as simple as admitting what you don’t know, or offering an open-door policy for staffers to come to you with questions or concerns.
Hopefully, as we enter 2021, we will soon see an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as one door closes, another opens. So, utilize these six principles to help your members, staff and larger audience combat the confusion, fear and frustration the next crisis will bring.
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Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A soon-to-be graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work and education with her love of dogs. Taking her three dogs — Scooby, Pipsqueak and Moose — to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.