Coronavirus Crisis Control

March 23, 2020

We applaud the efforts of the New York State Bar Association to proactively assist in helping the bar and the greater public through these difficult times. We were honored that we were asked by the State Bar Association to co-present a webinar on March 16 for approximately 500 participants on the topic of “During the Coronavirus – What Businesses Should Do to Prepare.”

Our General Counsel Ron Levine provided practical tips that businesses should be taking to develop and employ in their business continuity plans and advice on how to ensure that employees are kept informed.

These plans become essential when faced with a worldwide health crisis. Here are 8 important points he emphasized to keep in mind in preparing any such plan:

  1. Select a coordinator, and a team, with clear roles and responsibilities.
  2. Bring your key players to the table. Meet regularly. Have an agenda and an action plan after every meeting. The team’s members should be empowered to make decisions quickly.
  3. Include temporary succession planning for key decision-makers in the event of illness.
  4. Educate the team concerning the legal challenges arising from this crisis.
  5. Develop and plan for potential scenarios that will impact your workforce, your supplies, and your locations.
  6. Establish an emergency communications plan so you are able to get messages to your employees, key contacts, chain of communications, and follow up.
  7. Make sure you have appropriate platforms, including web pages for communicating to the workforce, suppliers and customers.
  8. Review all potential coverage, and notify carriers where necessary.

A major challenge for any business will be communicating with its internal employee, and external customer and investor, audiences. There are certain well-established do’s and don’ts Ron emphasized from his own experience advising clients:

Do:

  • Know your message and stick to it. Firms must issue clear and concise directives to employees and customers on steps to take to maintain health, and the business continuity plans for the operation.
  • Speak with one voice, your designated spokesperson. You may have a committee, but don’t have everyone on the committee providing his or her own views. Ask all employees to send their comments and concerns to the spokesperson, and not to everyone in the firm.
  • Be as frank and honest as possible. A loss of trust in the messenger can be a disaster.
  • Keep it simple, get to your point quickly. As lawyers we like to be as complete as possible. The best approach is KISS – Keep it Simple and Straightforward.
  • Repeat the message. In a crisis you cannot overcommunicate.

Don’t:

  • Don’t speculate. Don’t make predictions. Recognize the unknown unknown.
  • Don’t say “no comment.” As lawyers, we prefer that our clients say no comment. Crisis experts will counsel against those words.
  • Don’t minimize the situation.
  • Don’t respond to hypothetical questions.
  • Don’t use technical jargon.

These tips can serve any organization well as it works to steer the ship through choppy waters. Indeed, Ron emphasizes that these same approaches can be employed by those who face personal crises. He shared his own personal experience in an article he has provided to clients and friends:

http://www.herrick.com/ronald-j-levine/publications/weathering-the-storm-personal-crisis-management-tips/