Should you CEO or any other key leader within your organisation test positive for Covid-19, it is important to have a strategy in place for how, when and what to communicate with key stakeholders, including employees, customers, partners and investors. Below are eight practical tips when planning your response.
- Admit to testing positive. It is a matter of debate as to whether a CEO or business leader testing positive for Covid-19 is a “material” event that requires official disclosure. However being open about the situation demonstrates strong, responsible leadership from a public health point of view while also helping promote togetherness in the fight to ensure business continuity in the meantime.
- Confirm who is in charge: If your CEO is unable to fulfil their normal role, even temporarily, be clear with stakeholders about who is taking over their duties in the meantime. When rumours abound, employees, investors and customers feel confused and trust diminishes.
- Be fast and flexible. The virus effects people differently, meaning things could change rapidly. Be ready to act quickly and decisively with the right messaging as the situation evolves – be that by improving or deteriorating.
- Prioritise employees. The first audience to address in this situation should be employees to reassure them about the actions being taken to support wellbeing of their leader. It will also help workers understand the steps the company is taking to protect the health and safety of the whole team and ensure business continuity.
- Be human. Whomever the person impacted, any communication around a case of Covid-19 is first and foremost an update about an individual, their family and what they are doing to stay safe. A personal note from or on behalf of your CEO rather than a more corporate announcement is the best way to set a tone of empathy and calm, helping stakeholders trust the situation is under control.
- Make a video. If a leader who tests positive is asymptomatic and able to continue working, the best way to demonstrate that is through video. If the executive remains strong and stable, showcase that. A video is also a powerful way to communicate when a leader has returned to work after medical leave or hospitalisation.
- Take the opportunity to be a leader: When a CEO tests positive, it is an opportunity (health allowing) for them to set an example to their company and community. Try to use the situation to deliver a strong and disciplined message about the steps everyone should take to protect themselves and others.
- Consider a media announcement. While prioritising employee communications is vital, bear in mind that internal memos are likely to spread into the media domain. You are better off controlling the story with a proactive announcement or press release detailing the situation.