4 COVID-19 messaging tips from Houston communications expert
Houston is undoubtedly hitting critical mass with COVID-19. The common sentiment has transitioned from "knowing someone who knows someone that has COVID-19" to more frequent first-hand, anecdotal experiences. When a potential exposure happens in the workplace it's vital that employees and companies alike quickly, professionally, and responsibly inform any parties that could have been indirectly exposed including vendors, clients, or meeting participants of any kind.
We understand as communication experts, informing a client, boss, or anyone that you've potentially exposed them is scary messaging to share. Guilt is the number one emotion people report experiencing when they realize they've potentially exposed someone or a group of people, even though the respective exposure was inadvertent. Nevertheless it's crucial to communicate the exposure quickly and effectively as that's how Houston can hinder the spread of this disease through our city.
So, how have we been counseling our clients as these potential exposures arise? Here are some notes and even an email template that Houstonians can use to help get them started.
This is not a time to wait for certainty. Do not wait for tangible test results or any type of certitude (such as you experiencing symptoms first-hand) before notifying a person or company that you've potentially exposed them. Remember: you aren't telling someone you gave them COVID-19, you are simply telling them that you have been exposed and therefore inadvertently exposed them.
Be honest and forthcoming with information
This is not a time to offload or dwell on your feelings of guilt, albeit that's a natural emotion. A simple apology for the situation you collectively find yourself is appropriate but a deep into your own feelings and context for the situation is neither necessary nor helpful. Remember, during times of crisis, people don't remember what you said, but that you said something at all when it would have been easier not to and that you're someone of high morals and character.
Be detailed, but not too detailed
Again, you want to share concrete information versus your own personal emotions and feelings surrounding the incident. Pertinent information includes the following;
- When and where you were exposed
- When and where you exposed others
- If you're currently experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms
- Pertinent test results (if any) in regards to how you were exposed
Work from a template
It has come to my attention on date that I was exposed to COVID-19 through home, work, office, etc.
Because of this, it's a possibility that I unknowingly exposed you at date and place of interaction.
Though I am not currently not experiencing any symptoms and feel healthy, I wanted to let you know about this and err on the side of caution.*OR*I currently am experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 including X,Y, Z. I plan to get tested and can let you know the results when I receive them.
I apologize for this situation and am here to answer any further questions that might help you determine how to proceed accordingly.
Megan Silianoff is the founder and creative director of Mad Meg Creative Services, a Houston-based firm specializing in public relations, social media management, web design, and branding.