Coronavirus Coaxes Crisis Communications

Thom Weidlich 03.12.20


U.S. companies are beginning to communicate with stakeholders about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) affects their business. The statements (typically through email) that have caught our eye are those from companies and organizations trying to assure customers, members, and guests that their locations are safe to visit. We see some common elements in those messages.

Those common themes include that the company or organization:

  • Has been monitoring and continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation;
  • Considers the health, well-being, and safety of its customers and employees its highest priority;
  • Is adopting the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other (often local) health authorities;
  • Is cleaning and scrubbing its facilities down to the window latches;
  • Has instructed staff to stay home if feeling ill;
  • Has suspended or discouraged employee business travel (especially international); and
  • Is asking customers, members, and guests to stay away if they have flu-like symptoms.

The Princeton Club in New York City reassured members: “The Princeton Club will continue maintaining your home away from home with additional sanitary efforts to keep our members and staff as safe as possible. Our staff has been diligently cleaning the revolving door, push plates, door handles, work surfaces, elevators, and other common areas with approved disinfectants.”

Gym chain Planet Fitness (pictured) basically said its typical cleaning regime was enough, but added, “With cold and flu season upon us and heightened awareness around the Coronavirus (COVID-19), please know that we are closely monitoring the situation and will follow instructions and recommendations issued by public health authorities or government agencies as needed.”

Electronics retailer Best Buy was a rare example of a company that both sent out its March 10 email to customers and posted it on its website. Interestingly, it mentioned what customers should do about rescheduling “in-home consultations, deliveries, installations, or repairs.”

Sanitizing Wipes

It also had a nicely detailed description of its cleaning regime: “We have ramped up cleaning services at our stores and are adding hand sanitizer at the front entrances and at all cash registers. Sanitizing wipes are near workstations and counters so that employees can keep them continuously cleaned.”

Starbucks told customers it has suspended filling personal cups, but will continue to provide a 10-cent discount for those who bring them in.


We take care of our own because we believe you shouldn’t have to choose between your health and your coffee shop.

— Greg Zamfotis, CEO and founder of New York-based chain Gregorys Coffee

In his email to his “gregulars,” Greg Zamfotis, CEO and founder of New York-based chain Gregorys Coffee, laid out updated cleaning measures (though the company was awaiting a shipment of hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes). Zamfotis told customers that, to reduce chances of contamination, the stores eliminated their “condiment stations,” meaning all milk, napkins, and other such items would be kept behind the counter.

“These are hard times and we are in this together,” Zamfotis wrote. “We take care of our own because we believe you shouldn’t have to choose between your health and your coffee shop.”

Casinos are apparently also unwilling to gamble with employees’ and customers’ health. Caesars Entertainment had a fulsome customer email about the measures it’s taken, including putting up extra signage to remind workers and guests to wash their hands.

Wildhorse Resort

After a non-public-facing employee tested positive, Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Pendleton, Oregon, shut down for two days to clean. It reopened “following an inspection and letter of certification from environmental health officials and regulatory inspectors,” it announced in its statement.

And then there are those who decided they needed to shut down altogether. This was especially true of festivals.

The Ultra Music Festival, planned for this month in Miami, was canceled due to pressure from authorities, according to its statement (“Ultimately, there is no higher priority for us than the health, safety, and physical well-being of each of you”).

South by Southwest, which was to begin tomorrow, was forced to cancel by the City of Austin in Texas. “‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place,” it wrote.

According to Entertainment Weekly, neither festival will provide refunds. We smell another crisis in the offing.

Photo Credit: Planet Fitness via Facebook

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