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In April of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to have major impacts on America, the Centers for DIsease Control and Prevention created the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) Overview for COVID-19. Designed to assist the public with making informed decisions during the pandemic and other challenging and time-sensitive situations, the CERC overview provides six core principles that help ensure resources are well-managed and those using them can put them to the best uses possible.

As the one year anniversary of the pandemic’s global shutdown draws near, it's so important for organizations to proactively prepare for future crises. The COVID-19 pandemic hit many organizations hard, and if they had been better prepared to analyze and defend against the resulting issues, maybe the business outcomes wouldn’t have been as devastating. 

According to these six CERC principles, this is how your organization can better handle crises in 2021:

“Be first.”

“Crises are time sensitive. Communicating information quickly is crucial. For members of the public, the first source of information often becomes the preferred source.”

In times of crisis, it’s important to realize that decisions are made fairly quickly. Know who the most reliable sources of information  are so you can update and share what you know with your audience as soon as it becomes available. 

“Be right.”

“Accuracy establishes credibility. Information can include what is known, what is not known, and what is being done to fill in the gaps.”

While it is crucial to be quick when sharing important information, keep in mind that making sure your information is accurate and applicable is more important. Accurate information builds trust and helps to solidify your organization as a good source of information.

“Express empathy.”

“Crises create harm, and the suffering should be acknowledged in words. Addressing what people are feeling, and the challenges they face, builds trust and rapport.”

As we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, crises are devastating. Some people are dealt a harder hand than others, so it’s important to be cognizant of that fact when sharing information. If possible, tailor your information to the specific audiences who need it most.

“Promote action.”

“Giving people meaningful things to do calms anxiety, helps restore order, and promotes some sense of control.”

If your audience or your staff comes to you for guidance through crises, that means they are looking for actionable steps to protect themselves and/or their own organizations. Offering tips and tricks, steps to take or other instructions could ease burdens and help restore some semblance of order.

“Show respect.”

“Respectful communication is particularly important when people feel vulnerable. Respectful communication promotes cooperation and rapport.”

Like during the COVID-19 pandemic, emotions are high during crises. Stay respectful and aware of other’s situations when sharing information or tips, and be open to hearing feedback. As an organization leader, this could be as simple as admitting what you don’t know, or offering an open-door policy for staffers to come to you with questions or concerns.

Hopefully, as we enter 2021, we will soon see an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as one door closes, another opens. So, utilize these six principles to help your members, staff and larger audience combat the confusion, fear and frustration the next crisis will bring. 

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
December 20, 2020
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.