If this year hasn’t awakened business leaders to the value of being prepared, then, “come on, man!”

The pandemic grinds on. The resulting recession has injected meaningful uncertainty into our economy. Complex issues of racial injustice permeate nearly every corner of society.

This convergence of health, economic and social turmoil, amid the most divisive and consequential presidential election in our lifetimes, feels like a perfect storm disrupting our economy, society and way of life.

But for professional communicators, the work is just getting started.

Few businesses were prepared for pandemic, recession and racial injustice issues and simulated scenarios against them. Well-prepared companies, though, likely did plan for what followed: work-from-home disruptions, supply-chain challenges, large-scale customer complaints, workforce reductions, financial distress and more.

Individual businesses may have little to no control over global and national crises, but they can increase their awareness and understanding of the importance of preparing for predictable — yet controllable — issues.

In late April of this year, less than two months into this pandemic (and what feels like a decade ago), we published “Surviving and Thriving in a Post-Pandemic World: A Communicator’s Playbook.” It included our “100-Day Covid-19 Communicator’s Reset Plan.” You can download it here.

The foundational tenets we employ in our extensive crisis communications work still apply. Our approach to every unplanned business disruption follows a disciplined, three-phase process.

  1. Think (Brand Strategy): Businesses must be informed by key insights, market and competitor analysis and data to identify the who, what, when, where and how behind strategic communications programs. Companies often are judged on the effectiveness of communications output, yet it’s the input, planning and positioning — the behind-the-scenes work — that makes a difference when communicating in a crisis situation.
  2. Create (Brand Content): Businesses must develop content of any format with passion, deep understanding, empathy and expertise to create narratives, assets and programs to connect effectively with key audiences in times of confusion and distress.
  3. Engage (Brand Communications): It has never been more important to engage. Businesses must implement, deliver and measure across paid, earned, shared and owned channels to engage the right people with the right message at just the right time. It has never been more important to seek input and multiple perspectives. As I shared in an earlier blog post, “When in doubt, simplify; be transparent and honest to the values of your company or product. Be prepared to apologize and restate — quickly. Do not get stuck in neutral. Lead, don’t follow.”

More than 225,000 people in our country have died of Covid-19. Many businesses and schools remain closed. This health crisis has driven the U.S. and global economy into a recession, which is further complicated by historic levels of social unrest due to racial injustice in America.

While incomprehensible, it has challenged thoughtful, forward-looking businesses to be better prepared and anticipate the actions needed to protect mission-critical relationships and brand value.

Professional communicators and marketers have shown their worth in the throes of 2020. They will be an invaluable asset to every company as we roar into 2021 with all eyes focused on rebuilding and being better prepared for what’s to come.