How well are you communicating to your community?

Posted on: Monday, 6 April 2020 at 10:49:55 AM

Residents and ratepayers in your locality are likely concerned about how the COVID-19 crisis will affect them. During this confusing time, it is important to be on the front foot and present clear, concise and targeted communications for your stakeholders.

Here are 7 steps you can action now to prepare crisis communications for your locality.

1. Set a goal for your plan

In setting a goal consider issues, such as:

  • Further restrictions to the movements of people
  • How the crisis may affect the ability for your community to render services
  • The impact the crisis may have on the ability for residents to pay rates

An example of a goal for a your crisis community plan could be:

"This plan creates a structure for communicating within the locality and to anyone outside of the locality that may be impacted by our actions in response to the COVID-19 crisis."

2. Anticipate and scenario plan

Assess potential impacts and implement measures to reduce your risk. Consider how this crisis could potentially affect your community, outline scenarios and response measures.

For example, in a health crisis you may be required to close all out-centres within your locality. This could include libraries, recreation centres, community and visitor centres. It is important to consider how you will continue to service your community if this were to happen. 

In the case of COVID-19, an appropriate response measure would be to redirect any users navigating to your out-centre websites (e.g. Recreation Centre) to your COVID-19 information page on your corporate website. This also ensures only one webpage requires updating as information / advice changes. 

3. Identify your stakeholders

List your internal and external stakeholders. Consider anyone that could be directly or indirectly impacted by you. This may include:

  • Residents
  • Business owners
  • Suppliers
  • Employees
  • Visitors 

It is important to understand who you need to communicate information to as well as the channels best suited to each stakeholder group. 

For example, a local government may choose to communicate with residents via a letterbox drop. This communication method would not be appropriate or effective for communicating to visitors without a permanent place of residence. Therefore, a 'digital first' approach is often best suited to reach the majority of your stakeholders. 

4. Create a hierarchy for information sharing and appoint a spokesperson

Information on the crisis needs to be fed into a central source. Advise your staff on who that will be, whether it is the Mayor, CEO or the Head of Communications. 

Once chosen, advise your key stakeholders who your spokesperson will be. It is important to create consistency as soon as possible as this will put your stakeholders at ease. 

5. Create fact sheets

Prepare information and fact sheets relevant to the crisis and your stakeholders. Keep the information clear, concise and consistent across all platforms (e.g. website and social media). Continuously amend and update information in a timely fashion.

Wherever possible, refer your stakeholders to credible sources and official channels of information (e.g. State or Federal Government websites). This ensures your stakeholders are always directed to the most up to date information and reduces the administrative effort required for keeping it up to date. 

6. Identify notification channels

Ensure all your stakeholders are reached via your communication channels. Look at methods where you can push communications out effectively, such as:

  • Website notifications or alert functions - ensure your crisis communication is easy to find and located prominently on your website home page
  • Direct email campaigns - these should be short, succinct and always redirect back to the you website as the 'one source of truth'
  • Bulk SMS messaging - enable your stakeholders to subscribe to SMS notifications via your website 
  • Official social media pages 
  • Unofficial social media - informal community groups, tourism pages and neighbourhood watch pages
  • Public noticeboards - online and offline, for example, community centre pin-up boards
  • Partner networks - create content for businesses and community groups to then share via their own communication channels

On both your website and social media channels, consider allowing for a live chat functionality. The questions used in live chat can be used to generate an FAQ page on your website. Furthermore, the chat enables your stakeholders to reach out directly to you for information and you can directly control the response. 

7. Communicate regularly and monitor

It is important to communicate in a routine manner and keep your message consistent across all channels. Continue to monitor the situation and update fact sheets and your spokesperson as the situation evolves.

Don't be afraid to be consultative - ask your stakeholders what information they would like to hear, and how they would like to hear it. This will enable you to adapt and adjust your communications as the situation develops as well as foster a sense of community.

Need help?

Market Creations can assist with scenario and crisis communications planning as well as provide ongoing PR and corporate communications support. 

If you need help communicating with your stakeholders in the current crisis, please get in touch via phone (08) 6168 1000 or email mc@marketcreations.com.au

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