I think about all the people who have been thrust into the spotlight because of COVID after years of working behind the scenes. Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 but had you ever heard of him before March? Did you know who your county’s director of public health was? Even the governors previously worked outside the radar without the daily press conferences and front-page coverage they receive today.
The pattern extends outside the government realm as well. Directors of local nonprofits, small businesses and religious organizations are all being called to perform public relations work, communicate policies and have interactions with audiences in ways that they have never done before. For some of them, you can tell it is totally outside of their comfort zone.
The bottom line is that the need to communicate with stakeholders isn’t going away. CNN may not be knocking on your door, but whether it be due to the pandemic, tragedy, crime or circumstances, chances are good that one type of crisis or another will someday warrant a public response. The time is before that happens to be clear on who will deliver the message, the key points to emphasize the organization itself and resources to call upon to help if the matter has the potential to escalate (tip: they all do!).
In the era of social networks, 24/7 media coverage and the never-ending quest for a scoop, it doesn’t take much to find yourself with a microphone in your face. The importance of building relationships with reporters, obtaining media training and lining up communication resources should be elevated as an essential part of your managerial skill set.