PR is arguably one of my favourite parts of my role, but with all the great aspects like bagging great coverage for a client and building relationships there’s the inevitable crisis or two. As restaurants began to reopen it was only a matter of time before we had to deal with a Covid case with one of our clients, but we certainly didn’t think that we’d a) be the first ones or b) have to deal with it so quickly after reopening.
On Saturday 11th July we had a phone call from Nathan, Director at Hyde & Co, to let us know that one of the team members at Seven Lucky Gods had taken a Covid test which had been returned positive. Despite having no Covid related symptoms, they weren’t taking any risks, so made the decision to close immediately, and it was then up to us to set about drafting a statement to put out across all of our marketing channels. The week and a half that followed was an education to say the least, as we waited for the entire team to be tested and managed the inevitable concerns from customers. Sadly whilst we were one of the first agencies in Bristol to have to manage a Covid PR crisis we know we won’t be the last, so we’ve rounded up what we learnt…
Hyde & Co had confirmation that we’d had a positive case amongst the team on Saturday morning, and within an hour they’d made the decision to close the restaurant so we had to create a statement – fast! The member of the team who had tested positive hadn’t actually been working when he came in (in fact he’d only popped in briefly for a team meeting four days prior), and whilst the advice from Public Health England and Environmental Health didn’t state they had to close, Hyde & Co weren’t taking any chances. They also made the call to arrange tests for all of the staff, and not just those who’d been in contact with the team member in question, so we had to consider how to quickly and efficiently communicate everything that we knew in a nutshell.
Be totally transparent
They say honesty is the best policy and there’s a reason for that – it is. We worked closely with the Hyde team to help them create their restaurant manifesto prior to reopening, detailing all of the precautions they were taking to keep the team and their customers safe, and this was invaluable as we were able to refer back to it every step of the way. The whole motivation for doing the manifesto was to be totally open and honest about the plans, and the same applied with communicating what had happened with this. When drafting the first statement we laid out everything we knew, and kept our social media channels updated as we got more information, test results and updates from PHE and EHO.
Keep in touch
Keeping in touch with your customers on social media and through email is essential at the best of times, and even more important when things hit the fan. Expect to get a lot of questions and queries from people who are understandably concerned, so be prepared to dedicate a lot more time than usual to managing replies. Again, be honest with people and if you don’t have all of the information they need just say – people are generally really understanding and if you make sure you keep them updated as soon as you have more detail it’ll be appreciated. On the plus side stay engaged with the positive comments – you’ll likely need a little boost and the positive support will do just that, as well as showing your customers feel like they’re valued.
Consult the experts
The Hyde team contacted Public Health England and Environmental Health immediately, and their expert help and advice proved invaluable. They advised them on the official processes to follow with testing, whether they needed to implement any track and trace, and when and how they could begin to reopen again. Make the most of these services as they’re there to help and it’ll certainly put your mind at ease to know the official bodies are supporting you through it.
Since Seven Lucky Gods reopened we’ve been totally overwhelmed with the positive response to how we handled the situation, and it’s been lovely to get so much nice feedback from others in the industry and the customers – it’s certainly made the stress and worry of doing the right thing at the time worthwhile! We spoke to the team at Bristol Food Union about the whole situation and you can watch the video here: