As we all know, covid-19 is spreading across the globe and we are already seeing its effects as conferences and events are cancelled, entire school systems are moving to online classes, and the hospitality industry is taking a major hit. No one wants to travel or be around crowds or even new people right now. In fact, I’ve been coordinating a client’s media tour and reporters who were interested in face-to-face briefings just two weeks ago are now asking for video conferencing and screen shares.
That’s why Cisco’s announcement that they will offer 90-day free business licenses for their virtual meeting platform, Webex is a welcome promotion – even if it is for a limited time
Google also announced free use of its web conferring tools to businesses and schools now through July 1st. And, Microsoft is also offering a free six-month trial globally for a premium tier of Microsoft Teams, Business Insider first reported on Tuesday.
While it’s great these companies are supporting businesses and schools, one can’t help but notice the promotional feel to the “free trial” with these good works. From a PR perspective, I would have recommended against including a specific end-date in their announcements. That would have enabled them to gauge the need three or four months from now and present this as something more than an opportunistic promo. Nonetheless, I’m sure many organizations will take advantage of the trials.
In the meantime, we are also seeing major corporations such as Twitter directing all employees to work remotely until further notice, as has Stripe, Slack and Square.
In fact, Twitter is apparently already taking advantage of Google’s announcement as CEO, Jack Dorsey Tweeted just the other day:
Of course, remote working has seen increased adoption over the past few years but the covid-19 outbreak has led many organizations to accelerate their plans to offer work from home options.
I imagine we will continue to see more companies moving to remote working models. As such, organizations should review their employee engagement and internal communications policies regarding working from home. I recommend creating a FAQ document that proactively addresses their questions and ensuring your people understand the process and have communication processes in place. There are a number of instant messaging tools that can be useful as well. Chanty, ProofHub, Glip and Slack are two of my favorites.
Finally, brands should absolutely have a crisis communications plan in place should your workforce become infected. This is especially important for travel and hospitality brands, of course. But, any brand can be affected by this health crisis. Whether you are B2C or B2B, your customers will want to know your employees are safe and their work will not be interrupted – or at the very least interruptions will be managed.
Logistics and supply chain brands need to be prepared to address delays in production and delivery. I recommend developing alternatives to your existing suppliers and vendors while also communicating honestly to your customers about expected delays and re-routing. As is the case with any crisis situation, information equals confidence, silence equals fear. Make sure your customers know you have a plan in place and you are following the situation closely and will adjust your plans as needed.
There will be more to come on this issue, I’m sure, as this situation is just getting started. And, I will continue to share tools that will be useful for your remote teams and tips for managing public perception.