For public affairs and communications consultants such as Kiroyan Partners (KP), the most important way to maintain a reputation during this pandemic is to promote stakeholder interests.
They must be able to ensure that they are able to provide excellent service, even though they work from home. To get to that stage, CEO and Principal Consultant Kiroyan Partners Verlyana (Veve) Hitipeuw emphasized the importance of mitigating issues. “We have monitored its progress after the 2020 New Year holidays, long before the COVID-19 outbreak entered Indonesia,” she said in a written answer, Monday (20/4/2020).
Apart from monitoring, they also identify the impact of this pandemic on clients and companies. “We don’t live in a vacuum. Every organization will definitely be connected and affected by external factors, including this pandemic,” she said.
The next step is to design crisis communications. There are three stages: communication before the crisis, during the crisis and after the crisis. The earlier the crisis is detected, the greater the potential to be able to minimize the impact that a company will feel when a crisis occurs. “This first stage is crucial. Efforts to monitor and manage issues fall into this stage,” she added.
One thing is for sure, communicate based on facts. “In a pandemic situation, there is no alternative but to communicate based on facts because human lives are at stake,” said Veve, quoting KP Chairman and Chief Consultant Noke Kiroyan.
In general, from Veve’s observations, companies that have monitored the COVID-19 issue from the start, regularly and immediately identify potential impacts, are much better prepared to face major changes due to the pandemic. The company knows what needs to be communicated and consulted with relevant stakeholders so that they can take strategic steps.
For example, before there was an appeal for social distancing from the government, companies that were more responsive had implemented a special protocol for preventing the Corona virus (at that time the name was not yet COVID-19). Starting from replacing handshakes with namaste greetings, recording employee travel history for the past two weeks, changing face-to-face meetings to online, providing hand sanitizer in several strategic places, to ensuring information about potential delays in producing certain goods because raw materials are imported from countries that are affected by COVID-19 has been well conveyed to customers.
KP has taken a similar step. When the COVID-19 outbreak developed in an unfavorable direction, management decided that employees should work from home. They also issue official statements for clients and partners as this policy will affect the company’s activities. They ask for the client’s understanding to support the decision with shared health and safety considerations. “We stick to the corporate value of good is not good enough. Even though we work from home, we strive to provide the best standard service and on time,” she said.
While continuing to observe the development of COVID-19, what must be done is to show empathy and ensure that stakeholders remain a priority. “Even so, do not also hesitate to change priorities if there are priorities that can be changed as long as they do not conflict with the government and can be packaged creatively,” she added.
According to Veve, the challenge lies at the very top. It is not easy for PR to convince leaders about the potential impact of the crisis. As a result, sometimes leaders take different directions when making decisions that have the impact of causing a bigger crisis for the organization. For this reason, it is important for communication practitioners to ensure that they are heard by the leadership. If necessary, involve objective third parties.
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 62nd Edition, issued on May 2020, page 15.
Download the clipping here.