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COVID-19: Essential Components in Critical Communications

When considering critical communications, what comes to mind for some is pushing out every single piece of information and messaging to stakeholders as quickly as possible – particularly with the frequent developments in the current COVID-19 situation. But with a plethora of pandemic-related information available from all imaginable media sources, your staff and stakeholders can easily be overwhelmed.

Managing Critical Communications

If not properly managed, over-alerting can cause your audience to become complacent regarding the seriousness of this ongoing crisis. In addition, there is a high probability that there may be a significant volume of potentially misleading information circulating – while some may be well-intended, adding to this may be counterproductive.

Critical communications become ever more important during such an unprecedented event as the COVID-19 outbreak. The ability to focus on information that is factual, accountable, clear, actionable, and assuring is crucial. While we may want to consider speed when distributing information, the current situation requires organizations and business owners to review and validate this information carefully prior to communicating it to stakeholders. Yet, in a sustained event such as the current pandemic, timely dissemination pressures for instant publication can override due diligence.

Know Your Audience

The need to manage the pace of communications during this crisis as well as other important business continuity activities could require making some adjustments to any already prepared communications templates. This consideration should be factored into reviewing messaging intended for your various stakeholders. Broadly, this should cater to senior management; general staff; staff providing essential services within your organization, such as the facilities management teams; partner vendors; targeted clients; the general public; and your shareholders.

When categorizing audience messages, consider these two sets of information required: generic to all, as well as those targeted at your categorized recipients. The tone of your message will then need to be factored into your communications. Above all, organizations should try not to communicate any manner of pessimism – that can result in a morale loss, potential reputational impact to the organization, and other unintended consequences.

The Communications Process

As a general guide, the communication process should include the following essential components:

  • An advance notification message informing stakeholders of the nature of the event, relevant factual details, current state, and what your organization may intend to do.
  • A preparation for next steps message informing stakeholders what to gear up for – for internal staff this should include work from home, split operations, or suspension of operations preparatory activities. For external stakeholders, this may include a generic message on what the organization is further preparing in response to the event.
  • A periodic situation report message informing stakeholders on the summary of key developments to the ongoing event, and what is indeed relevant to them.
  • A business continuity plan message informing stakeholders that alternate work processing arrangements will be activated.
  • A periodic staff check message to establish current BCP operational status, as well as staff well-being.
  • A return message to signal to stakeholders a return to normal workflow when the current situation shows signs of improvement, in accordance with government directions and the organization’s risk assessment.

For more information on how organizations can maintain critical communications during the current COVID-19 crisis, visit the BlackBerry AtHoc business continuity resource center.

Stay vigilant and stay safe.

Gary Ng

About Gary Ng

Product Marketing Manager, BlackBerry