By Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications
In the face of a coronavirus pandemic, prudent business and nonprofit leaders
should be using “peace time” to prepare for the worst.
Animal viruses that jump species can and often do change or mutate, presenting challenges to doctors and researchers. In rapidly developing situations, reporters demand simple and definitive answers, even in situations – such as the global coronavirus outbreak – where simple and definitive answers don’t yet exist. Bloggers with political agendas may naively or purposely report fact as fiction and vice-versa as well.
On the web anyone can be a “reporter” with the ability to publish immediately and without the traditional safety net of editors, fact-checkers and other traditional media gatekeepers. Consider also the pressure on traditional media of balancing the mandate to report immediately versus The need to report accurately. Given those factors, the emerging coronavirus provides another fertile field for confusion with consequences.
The Spanish Flu killed some 50 to 100 million people worldwide in 1918-19, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. The 2003 SARS outbreak never reached pandemic level, but caused 774 deaths in 17 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak featured high rates of human-to-human transmission, yet was thought to have been less lethal than originally feared, with 18,449 confirmed deaths. The Centers for Disease Control has since estimated the global death toll at 284,000 – 15 times those confirmed cases.
All these examples should serve as cautionary tales for how we approach and talk about this latest potential pandemic.
I reached out to Dr. Peter Sandman, perhaps the United States’ preeminent risk communication speaker and consultant. Here’s what Dr. Sandman told me:
In the face of this uncertainty and volatility, prudent business owners and nonprofit managers, should be using “peace time” to prepare for the worst.
Now is the time to:
Dr. Sandman and his wife, Dr. Jody Lanard, offer additional suggestions for businesses and nonprofit agencies that include:
If you need assistance putting together a proactive crisis or risk communications plan for your organization, contact Hennes Communications at 216-321-7774.
Bruce Hennes is CEO of Hennes Communications, one of the few firms in North America focused exclusively on crisis management and communications.