The U.S. Is Gradually Reopening. Are You Ready?

It is surreal to think what a different world we’re living in compared to just two months ago when many of us were making Spring Break plans, looking forward to March Madness and getting ready for warmer evenings out on the patio with friends and family.

Many companies have folded under the pressure and inevitabilities resulting from a closed economy during the pandemic. Others have adapted quickly and some are thriving. Wherever your business falls on that spectrum, one thing is clear: Those with a long-term plan – and the ability to effectively communicate that plan to their stakeholders – will be the most well-positioned to survive.

The process of reopening will vary from business to business and largely depend on local and state government regulations. What you are required to do and what is necessary to make your team and your customers feel comfortable may or may not be the same thing.

As you plan to reopen in a new world, take these initial steps to prepare.

Review How You Fared So Far

Take an honest assessment of the actions you’ve already taken. Business owners in crisis mode tend to be reactive rather than proactive, so it may be time to reckon with any knee-jerk emails, phone calls or social media posts you pushed out when things were at peak uncertainty in March and April.

Review what has already been done and update your messaging with the latest on your sanitation practices, work from home policies, business hours and other pertinent information. If corrections need to be made on social media posts or blogs, consider adding an edit with the new information to the original post rather than deleting it. Deleting posts and comments can make a brand look like they have something to hide or unsteady. Avoid this by being transparent and forthcoming about how your processes have changed over time to adapt to the current situation.

And always remember we’re all learning and growing through this together! If you treat your stakeholders with transparency and respect, it is more likely they will offer grace in return.

Don’t Forget Internal Communications

It’s easy to focus all of our efforts on communication with customers and clients when faced with the threat of losing them. But how you communicate with your internal team during the shutdown and after is just as crucial.

Many employees have been left in limbo somewhere between a temporary furlough and permanent unemployment. Before you reopen, touch base with your team on timing so they know when they can expect to get back to work and provide an overview of how their revised roles will look. Make sure each employee is well-versed on any new safety measures and protocols so they can convey that to customers and provide peace of mind.

Whether your team has been working from home or furloughed for the past few weeks, check on their mental health. If you took the compassionate route and were open and honest at the beginning of the crisis and throughout, you’ll be in a much better position as your team members begin to come back to work. It’s important to be empathetic as each person has experienced this crisis in a different way.

Make A Plan Then Be Ready to Adapt

Have you developed a new system to protect your employees and customers? Are the changes you’ve made evident to those who have fears and concerns about COVID-19?

Whether that means adding in-store signage, updating your website, sending out regular newsletters or any other number of communication tactics, mapping out a plan will provide you with solid goals and expectations for a reopened business.

Components of a reopening plan should include:

  • Reinforcement of the core values that you have leaned into during this time of crisis. When you lead with your values, it’s hard to go wrong.
  • Considerations for a range of emotions and attitudes toward COVID-19. Many are still fearful while some are indifferent.
  • Sensitivity to those who remain closed or have had significant revenue losses. This may be a great time to cross-promote community partners and build up others as they wait to reopen.
  • Consider channels and ways in which consumers will now communicate and interact. Social media saw significant spikes during the shutdown. Others may have even canceled their cable and moved to digital to save on expenses. Your communications strategy should take these elements into consideration based on your target audiences.

It is important to set realistic expectations and understand that reopening doesn’t mean returning to business as usual. Do your best to plan for the foreseeable obstacles, while remaining ready to make adjustments along the way. Each week is proving to be a little bit different than the last, but flexibility and open communication are the key to a successful reopening in this new environment.