A Communications Primer for Coronavirus

covid blood test

It’s rare when PRNEWS covers a breaking-news story. We believe, though, that addressing internal and external communication around COVID-19/coronavirus warrants coverage since the sickness has become a corporate issue.

For example, at press time, it emerged that a Seattle-employee of Amazon tested positive. Based in Washington, Amazon is at ground zero for the virus in the US. Washington is the only state where coronavirus has claimed lives, though we expect this to change, unfortunately.

In addition, the behemoth retailer has requested that its 800,000 employees abstain from non-essential travel.

Google and Twitter are urging staff to work from home.

With stories like these, employee concerns are rising. Is your communications instilling confidence in them? Does your message make it clear that the company is concerned about employees’ health? Do you have pre-approved plans to communicate issues to them and your customers?

Have you begun conducting exercises to prepare your crisis team for COVID-19 scenarios? Do you have clearly articulated policies for remote work? How about travel? Have you thought about business continuity or using measurement to arrive at decisions? Who will articulate policies and new iterations of them for coronavirus? Which platforms will you use? Do you have an alert system in place?

To get you started, we asked T. Garland Stansell, CCO of Children’s of Alabama, the pediatric health system, and the PRSA chair, to provide building blocks for a coronavirus strategic communications plan. His edited remarks are below.


Bring together the right people within your organization with whom to strategize, and make sure you have the facts so you can make informed decisions.

Decide with leadership who within the organization is authorized to speak on the topic.


Determine with leaders what information to share.

Ensure that information and facts used are from a trusted and knowledgeable source, such as the CDC or World Health Organization.

Whatever tactics you use, whether it’s email, phone calls, in-person meetings, social media, press conferences or other means of communication, make sure that your messaging is consistent and that everyone speaks with the same voice.

The news cycle changes by the second. When working with the media make sure you present information that is credible but that doesn’t sacrifice accuracy or your reputation.


Communicate early and often. This will help keep the focus on what is happening, and allow you to tailor your strategy as new developments occur.

Note: A version of this content appeared in PRNEWS, March 2020. For subscription information, please visit: http://www.prnewsonline.com/about/info

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