Crisis Communications during COVID-19 - Vested

With COVID-19 gripping the lives of thousands, we communicators have had to find ways to reach our customers, colleagues and partners during a perilous time. The terrible reality we face is that organizations have to begin planning communications around a staff member or executive falling critically ill or passing away.

While none of us wish to face such a scenario, it is wise for communications teams to plan for such an outcome so that the organization can better help guide their teams through such a crisis.

The communications around such an event must be handled sensitively and take into account the wishes of the individual’s family. The following represent just some of the numerous considerations::

Considerations for communications:

  • For a large, global company, it may not be appropriate to circulate a memo group-wide about the passing of a staff member. It may only be appropriate within his/her team or in an Intranet setting.
  • Responsibilities and transition: the transition of responsibilities will need to be made clear to teams and should be agreed upon before this communications
  • For HR: Plan for or consider the availability of  grief counseling or teletherapy services and let staff members know about how they can receive access
  • Memorial and recognition: Identify if an internal, virtual memorial service or celebration will be held and communicate to staff when such an event will be held so they can  provide thoughts/condolences?
  • Family preferences: ensure the family is part of the discussion and comfortable with the level of disclosure in the announcement

Situation 1: Death of a staff member due to COVID-19

Memos should:

  • Be personal, touching on who this person was and their contribution to the organization
  • Include the employee’s date of passing
  • Include funeral dates and times if cleared with the family
  • Offer a designated HR contact

Situation 2: Critical illness of an executive due to COVID-19

Memos should:

  • Include the cause of hospitalization if granted permission by executive
  • Include the name and title of the executive stepping into that person’s position
  • Offer support and reassurance to team members

Situation 3: Death of an executive due to COVID-19

Memos should:

  • Be personal, touching a bit on who this person was to the organization
  • Include the executive’s full name and title
  • Include the date of passing
  • Include cause of death if the family is comfortable with that level of disclosure
  • Information of who fills the role and/or the plan to fill the role 
  • Reassurance of the continuity of business 
  • Include funeral arrangements if available
  • Include memorial arrangements internally, if appropriate
  • Offer a designated HR contact

We hope you and your team will not need to consult this document, but in the unfortunate circumstance you may, please feel free to reach out to us directly for further guidance or questions at forwardguidance@fullyvested.com

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