COVID and Crisis Go Hand in Hand


January 10, 2022

With the new variant and the surge in cases, it's more important than ever to show decisive leadership.

It starts with transparency and communication.

Leading with openness and honesty is what it means to be transparent. It's about informing your staff, your members and executing your communications plan. It requires decisive action, not the "hem and haw" approach, leading to member speculation and gossip.

Transparency and communication go hand in hand, especially when dealing with a crisis.

So what is a crisis?

It's anything that hurts the perception of your brand. It can damage your reputation and your bottom line. Your brand is your identity. It's the perception you want future and current members to think of. It's that feel-good lifestyle statement you share on your website, and most importantly, it's what you and your team, in many cases, have worked years to build. The lack of a crisis communication plan and proper training can destroy your hard work instantly.

With COVID, the crisis will continue to come full circle again, with employees having to wear masks, stress and fatigue, and now the potential enforcement of vaccinations. It takes just one unhappy employee to call the media and let them know they disagree with your policy for your club to make headlines. It takes one disgruntled member to do the same? How will you respond?

This is where your leadership is tested. This is why your crisis plan needs to be ready and updated. It needs to incorporate proper pandemic responses and cover other potential issues common to many country clubs, such as workplace harassment, foodborne illnesses, violence, accidental death, misuse of funds, and social issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion. The media will seize on all of these, and in 2022 the "No comment" approach does not cut it.

No comment makes us all think the company or club is guilty. This is where holding statements become crucial. They are not one size fits all but designed to be tweaked to adjust to any crisis. They need to be prepared in advance with general statements about a situation, and then you fill in the details later. The holding statement allows your team to respond quickly to a media request avoiding the dreaded "no comment" statement, which the public perceives as a disavowal of responsibility. It also prevents the media from writing or reporting speculative stories about your club and your negative situation. Then you need detailed media lists so you have first-hand knowledge of reporters' styles and approaches.

Every crisis is an opportunity for your team to build upon and enhance your brand equity. It's about being accountable, trustworthy, and communicating clearly. It's about acknowledging anger at times without accepting blame. It all starts with your leadership and desire to take the helm and create a crisis team that can respond internally and externally and to both social and traditional media.