Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By Anita Kovačič Čelofiga, President of the Public Relations Society of Slovenia
What began as a localized situation with just a handful of infections in Chinese Wuhan is now a world crisis facing many communicators. In Slovenia, we utopianly believed we could avoid being affected by the pandemic, but it has found its way to us nonetheless. It is already clear this will be one of the greatest health, social and economic crises in the country’s history.
At the time of writing, there are 96 cases of coronavirus infection in Slovenia and an epidemic has been declared. This sudden increase in the number of infected people in just a few days, the national measures to prevent the spread of the infection, and the actions being taken by foreign countries are causing panic among the public and additional work for communicators.
Coronavirus is being addressed in both the public and private sectors. Many organizations have set up emergency response working groups. According to Jasmina Roškar of Pošta Slovenije, “The current situation requires timely and coordinated work and a timely response to a constantly changing situation. Crisis preparation itself can envisage different strategies and tactics, but these will need frequent modification and supplementing in response to the situation. Our work is following the communication plans for crisis situations, with key messages tailored to the communication channels and the target publics.” “We started preparing for the crisis in time, drafting potential questions, establishing close cooperation with the crisis team, almost 24-hour follow-up, and ongoing information from the field,” added a colleague from a trading company.
Many companies have crisis plans in place. “However, in a situation like this, they can’t be applied easily or without adjustment. Some companies are at tipping point, not (yet) in crisis and still deciding how to manage the risk. They are looking for business opportunities, while at the same time preparing crisis plans. Communicators are actively involved in these processes. We must always place ourselves in the position of stakeholders receiving different messages. In this case, the funnel is very narrow with an incredibly fine sieve, the coronavirus,” says Tomaž Mihelin Ritlop of SPEM komunikacije.
“Our key task is to keep employees and customers informed, by being as realistically informed ourselves as possible of the company’s activities. In doing so, it’s important to consider carefully how the content will be communicated, so as not to provoke a negative response, We should express a balanced measure of diligence and responsibility while fully supporting business decisions,” says Karin Zagomilšek Cizelj of Elektro Maribor.
“Given the extraordinary amount of information, it takes an abundance of ingenuity and experience to excel, which is important for your work,” a public sector PR expert said, adding, “I rely on official government statements and monitor press conferences, as they are the most credible source at this time.”
Coronavirus is already having consequences, especially in organizations that are inadequately prepared for the magnitude of the crisis, lack strategic direction, and do not have clearly defined responsibilities for communication professionals, or have pushed them away from the decision table, forgetting that communication professionals only work successfully in close proximity to top management, as this enables them to engage with strategic planning and decision-making and provides access to key information. Mutual trust is a prerequisite for the good and efficient work of both.