Managing Reputational Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the past few years, organizations have placed a greater emphasis on planning for crisis situations via operational readiness and communication planning. This work has been focused on traditional crisis scenarios, but these unusual times remind us of the value of crisis management planning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the operations of most organizations, with the virus being an active concern. This environment has created additional reputational risks for organizations, with concerns about how their handling of the virus could affect their brand.

This is a situation in which operations and communication professionals should be in coordination so that your message matches your actions. Right now, your reputational risk isn’t just with the public, but how you are viewed as an employer. Here are three vital situations to consider:

  • COVID-19 precautions: As you install and update any precautions to keep your staff safe, this is a great time to be as transparent as possible. Your organization should share news with staff about changes ranging from simple safety measures to plans for managing an outbreak. This is an important step in making sure your employees have confidence in your ability to reduce exposures and handle COVID-19-related situations.
  • COVID-19 cases: Unfortunately, organizations face the real possibility of team members testing positive for the virus. In these situations, organizations should find a way to share the information transparently with staff while balancing the need to respect the HIPAA rights of those who test positive. This is a great time to reiterate the operational protocols and resources that your organization has in place to keep your team safe.
  • COVID-19 reaction: In the event of a positive COVID-19 test, there is a need for heightened awareness – for seriousness and empathy. Ranging from sharing new precautions to just demonstrating that your organization cares, this timeframe is vital in maintaining your reputation. This third situation is the biggest threat that you face from voices outside of your operations.

The pandemic can create new risks for the positive brand and reputation that has been built and fostered over time by your organization. The smartest approach to make sure you retain your strong reputation is to make sure your operations and message are on the same page. That coordination is the best road to reducing your reputational risk during this difficult time.


Chris Halverson and Jeff Christensen serve as leaders of M3 Insurance’s Core Disaster Response and Recovery Team. They have partnered together to serve M3 clients during crisis situations since 2013. 

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