In early March, I spoke with a friend who said she believed the coronavirus was “nothing more than a glorified cold”. She went on to say the media was going to send this country into a quick recession if they didn’t stop hyping the story.
I strongly disagreed and we argued. Like me, she is a former news reporter. She is also one of the smartest people I know. After our disagreement, we agreed to disagree but didn’t speak for a while.
Two months later she emailed me. Her healthy vibrant Mom had died of COVID. Living in a senior facility, Mom, who had no underlying health issues, contracted the virus. She was gone in six days.
I reached out to my friend who was clearly devastated. Opinions and political differences aside, we have always been there for each other and still are.
Weeks later, when we spoke again, we agreed we were both upset with the escalating COVID numbers. She said she was furious that states were making individual decisions that were hurting the economy. She strongly believed businesses should be allowed to open quickly.
I said if the country had a master plan and stronger leadership at the top, states could follow protocol. She disagreed. We debated some more and said we’d talk soon.
My mother is also in a long- term care facility that has seen COVID deaths, so like my friend, I have a personal connection to this story. However, as a communications coach who has helped companies navigate a myriad of crises for more than two decades, there are seven basic crisis principles that should be applied in every situation including:
- Have a plan
- Act quickly
- Prioritize those who are affected
- Be proactive and transparent
- Take responsibility
- Communicate early and often
As a proud citizen and business owner, I understand the importance of economic recovery, but not at the expense of lives.
New Zealand, South Korea, Vietnam, and other countries including nations in the Caribbean are now moving forward because they either banned incoming visitors in the early stages of the pandemic or quickly initiated quarantines. Some countries like South Korea developed their own testing systems while others simply responded faster to the pandemic.
In many of these successful countries, specifically Asia, they believe the government is responsible for solving the problem and instituted national plans that were quickly communicated to their people.
Putting people first is critical during any crisis and here in America, we failed to do that. In a recent survey by public relations firm Edelman, 71% of respondents said they would lose trust in a brand if they believed that brand was putting profits over people. With the United States leading the world in confirmed cases of coronavirus, the need for empathetic compassionate leadership has never been more important.
My friend and I haven’t talked in a while. We will. When we do, we’ll again agree to disagree. Fortunately, we care about each other too much to let it ruin our friendship. Unfortunately, nothing will change. She’ll stay on her side and I’ll stay on mine. She’ll hear me and I’ll hear her.
Yet, like so many on different sides of the discussion, we will be listening, respond and defend our positions, not understand and fix our collective problems.