Today, the world is on high alert due to the coronavirus epidemic that poses huge risks to human life around the world , especially China where the disease was first reported. There are currently more than 19,500 cases and over 1,500 deaths.
Although the global response to this endemic has been swift, there has been concern over the business impacts that this disease is causing and could begin to cause.
Nevertheless, business continuity here can be described as an establishment’s/business’s ability to ensure operations and core business functions are not severely impacted by a disaster or unplanned incident.
Coronavirus poses serious risk to businesses operations. Already, oil producing countries have started to feel the impact of slowed business due to reduced demand of petroleum in China.
China is the world second oil consumer after United States of America. Other business that may be affected include the airlines and horticultural business. Consequently, business continuity involves planning which is the process of implementing strategies to restore normal business in a set amount of time.
Accordingly, for business continuity to be effective, proper communication is a critical tool. Therefore, during an incident, the importance of being able to clearly communicate information with colleagues, external suppliers and other stakeholders is vital to a business’s ability to recover and minimise disruption. Of critical concern however is that most organisations’ business continuity plans are so fixated on recovering critical systems and people that they often overlook the importance of communication during an incident that prejudices normal business.
Communication is key for both for continuing internal operations as well as protecting the company’s reputation. Therefore, to ensure business continuity there are several things one should undertake in order to prepare your organisation for the potential impacts as a result of the coronavirus.
These include communicating to your organisation’s management about the situation, reviewing and updating your business continuity plans/ strategies to reflect the potential risk posed, communicate business continuity-related strategies and procedures to relevant stakeholders.
From the foregoing it is clear on the importance of communication in business continuity. Indeed, there cannot be a business continuity plan without effective communication.
Undeniably, one of the major lessons learned from incidents around the world over time is that ongoing communication both internally and externally is normally poor.
Designating key people to oversee communications during an event will save valuable time in a recovery effort, as well as salvage the company’s reputation to the public and to stakeholders.
It is imperative to maintain proper communication with leadership and employees to circulate information about the situation at hand to allow smooth and competent recovery effort.
Ensuring the employees know the nature of the situation, how to act, and where to be and when, are critical elements to make certain that everyone is on the same page and that valuable time is not lost.
Further, assigning key personnel to handle external communication during an emergency is supreme.
It is significant to make employees aware that only approved company personnel should speak externally regarding official company business.
Additionally, sample media statements/releases should be documented in the company’s business continuity plan in a way that is easily customizable to the nature of the event. Information should be accurate and only shared when authenticated.
The goal of external announcements should always focus on the safeguarding stakeholders’ information and should guarantee the public that all efforts are being made to continue critical business. Certainly, one of the critical thing to note for organisations is the importance of constant communication, both internally and externally during an incident.
Indeed, many organisations focus on communication at the onset of an event but fail to continue constant communication throughout the event, including when operations are back to normal.
It is critical for organisations to consider the proper schedule for communicating event details and ongoing ways in which this can be done for the duration of a business interruption. It has been argued that an organisations’ business continuity plan is only as strong as your ability to communicate it effectively.
Bernard Kimani communication specialist and certified public relations analyst, Nairobi.