Someone in your firm, or someone who has visited your firm, has tested positive for the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
Even if you don’t have anyone infected yet, you might. The virus seems to be spreading geographically a bit quicker than many expected. We will probably discover a sharp rise in the number infected once the testing kits are available and easily accessible.
It is also quite possible you have people who are positive but don’t know it yet. When this virus visits your firm, you will need to communicate swiftly in order to minimize disruption and help everyone feel safe.
If you would like to listen to my podcast episode about this topic, you can listen to that here:
As I outlined in my last post about how Coronavirus will impact your firm, it is important to plan ahead for this likely scenario. In that post, I outlined a process you can take to prepare for the upheaval in your firm.
Today’s post will dive deeper into one part of that process, which is how to communicate with all who will be impacted, including internal and external audiences.
What To Say When Coronavirus Visits Your Firm
I want to make it easier and quicker for you to be prepared, so let’s get started, okay?
You will want to draft communication that can be sent immediately upon your discovery of one of your people testing positive. Word will get out on its own, so it is critical you are prepared so you can set the tone and communicate accurately and compassionately. If you aren’t prepared, panic, anxiety, and fear, not to mention the virus, will spread faster than you can ever imagine.
Although similar, if not identical in their intent, tone, and purpose, you will need to draft versions 3 primary versions of your communication for:
- Internal audiences in your offices
- Clients because they might have been in contact directly or indirectly with the infected person in your firm, and because the Coronavirus might have an impact on the work you are doing together
- External audiences such as alumni, media, referral sources, service providers and vendors, those who deliver meals and supplies, and others who are connected to your firm.
Your goals might be many, but a few of the most important revolve around:
- Helping all feel safe and understood
- Providing strength, leadership, and direction when all else seems to be falling apart around them
As you draft your communication, take into consideration you can use many tools. Here are several you should consider.
- A dedicated Coronavirus resource and information page or section of your website
- Audio recordings
- Social Media
- SMS / Mobile Messaging
- Coronavirus Information Kits
I would consider choosing more than one because there are people who find comfort in reading, some in hearing your voice, some in seeing your face, and some who appreciate all of the above. The initial notification should probably be sent via email as that is the swiftest way to send your message, but I would incorporate other tools as soon as you can.
We can choose destinations after we decide what to say. Let’s first discuss what you need to include in your communication.
You will think of additional details once you consider the following, but let me help you get started with those that should be addressed.
- Let them know your first and highest priority is to keep everyone in your firm safe.
- Make sure everyone understands exactly what is going on. Don’t beat around the bush. Make it known someone in your [xyz] office has tested positive for the Coronavirus.
- Remind everyone that all who are ill in your firm need to feel safe while they are being treated, and that showing empathy toward them is important.
- Let them know you and the management team will do whatever is within your power to offer an environment that is clean, safe, and protected.
- Let them know if you are sending everyone home to work.
- Let them know an initial time period for this work from home arrangement and that you will reassess that timeframe every day.
- Communicate your plans to clean and disinfect the office now and on an ongoing basis.
- Recommend that they, too, keep others around them safe by considering social distancing until they know they are safe and healthy.
- Remind them that if they are worried about being sick, they should first call their doctor to make him/her aware someone in your firm or office has tested positive and to ask about testing. Not every doctor’s office or hospital wants us to just show up unannounced with symptoms because that can defeat the need for isolation and quarantine should you also test positive.
- Discuss what your expectations are for continued work schedules, including the meeting, messaging, and webinar tools you will be using to carry on with co-workers as usual.
- Provide a way to find directions and training for how to use those tools, as well as reminders for how to log-in to your system to access work product so they can continue working.
- Clarify how this might impact those who already had this time scheduled for vacation, or who are out on sick leave already.
- Give them the assurance they will be paid as usual, and that the normal payment process will continue (if this is accurate).
- Should they be approached with questions about your firm’s situation, let them know who at the firm to refer all external inquiries to, including appropriate contact information.
- Tell them who they can contact confidentially if they begin to experience logistical issues with securing the items they need to maintain a healthy life while working from home…not a guarantee you can help in all situations, but that you have empathy and will do your best to point them to a few external resources that might be able to help.
The list above should help you draft your initial communication.
Help me make this bulleted list of details the most useful tool possible for everyone who needs a little inspiration.
If you have suggestions to add to this list, please add them in the comments. If you would rather do so confidentially, you can find all of my contact information right here.
Nancy Myrland is a Marketing, Business Development, Content, Social & Digital Media Speaker, Trainer & Advisor, helping lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines in order to maximize business development efforts to grow their practices. Known as the LinkedIn Coach For Lawyers, she is a frequent LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for Business trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers learn and implement marketing and business development efforts that are more relevant to their current and potential clients. As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasts, video marketing, voice marketing, flash briefings, and livestreaming. She also helps lead law firms through their online social media strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases.
If you would like to reserve an hour of Nancy’s time to begin talking strategy or think through an issue you are having, you can do that here.