4 F’s for the Covid-19 virus

When it comes to responding to this health crisis, communicators must ensure that their message is fast, frequent, factual and flexible.


As the “coronavirus” continues its tragic march, disrupting business, travel and everyday activities, every organization should be prepared to use the 4 F’s as a guide to ensure that critical messages are sent to important stakeholders: fast, frequent, factual and flexible.

Here’s what each of those F’s mean:

Fast: If a business relies on China for its supply chain, it’s obvious that quick communications about a potential disruption is important. The same goes for a company with an unbroken supply chain, because consumers might assume there is a problem. Fast messages can reassure customers that “all systems are go.” School districts might need to rapidly reach parents and students. An organization needs fast updates directed to employees who are working in impacted countries. Since rumors spread at the speed of light, getting news from a company before fearmongering hits social media builds trust, and employees will turn to the company first for future information.

Frequent: Imagine sitting at the gate of a delayed flight. Radio silence from the airline agents contributes to the uncertainty and makes the wait seem longer. Frequent updates demonstrate transparency and creates more trust. More outreach during challenging times will help a business recapture the trust of customers when things return back to normal.

Factual:  It’s best not to hedge, predict or exaggerate and be as upfront as possible. What are your customer’s questions? Try and answer as many as possible. Numbers matter. Don’t state more than you know or can confirm.

Flexible: It’s obvious that in a crisis such as COVID-19, events and facts are constantly changing. An organization needs to be flexible in what it says and how messages are delivered. At the beginning, it may be personal phone calls or an email. As things change, it may be necessary to use all outbound social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter or even post a video on YouTube.

A complete and up-to-date crisis communications plan will help make the 4F’s far more effective.

Andrew Gilman is CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, a crisis communications firm based in Washington, D.C. 

Dale Weiss is senior vice president at CommCore Consulting Group, and executive producer of CommCore’s PressureTest™ Crisis Simulation.


One Response to “4 F’s for the Covid-19 virus”

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    Another “F”—one that can do the public and your management a lot of good—is this one outlined below.

    FIGHT! If you genuinely fight for the public, and there’s more to fight for in this situation than many people yet realize, the public you protect will enthusiastically fight for you. Although it will be doctors who will will fight the disease, PR can guide your management to earn massive public gratitude by helping the doctors with supportive fights.

    Fight the ripoff artists! Con men and women will find dozens or scores of ways to try getting money from the public without doing the public substantial good. But your management can fight the bad guys by giving a platform to good guys, helping government and university experts to warn the public about what really works and what works only to get money away from people.

    Fight noncompliance! You know how in a hurricane, stupidity can be masked as bravery so that people stay in the danger zone? That can happen with Covid-19 if people who should know better hear and see the warnings but feel like it’s somehow courageous not to comply with safety precautions.

    Fight phony economizers! Just as each of us who works needs to be paid, so do the doctors, nurses, technicians and pharmaceutical makers and sellers but SOME political people may try to look like heroes by yelling that our health providers should work free or for what most intelligent people would consider not nearly enough.

    PR wisdom is to be SEEN fighting for the public.. Fight by creating a PR team and PR budget to focus on protectng the public. Is it time to bring in an additional PR firm with health PR credentials? See that each major company division, not just PR, has some people who’ve taken Ragan courses in crisis PR.

    Fight by taking ads in local papers on thanks and Certificates of Excellence from your management for the hard work—too often not thanked for enough–of our medical and pharmaceutical people who protect our lives. Laud our medical and pharmaceutical people on company websites and publications and bulletin boards.

    Your fight for what’s right is likely to gain you protective goodwill because you’ll deserve it. The public NEEDS company and PR help so health people can protect us. Guided by PR, those who fight the bad guys will earn years of intense gratitude from the good guys. Covid-19 and other ailments mean we are in a fight for our lives. PR reality is that few organizations will be so intensely appreciated as those that fight to help protect our lives.

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