Our Work Is Not Done
As some camps announce that they are cancelling their summer programs it is important to remember that your crisis communication work is NOT done. What you do after an unprecedented situation can be just as important as what you were doing during the event. Your audience needs closure. So…don’t overlook this final phase of your crisis communication plan.
After you inform your audiences about the cancellation, answer their questions and provide them with support, you must do a postmortem review. Evaluate how your team performed during this crisis and determine what you could have done better. Ask your staff if they have any suggestions on what you could improve, what worked well and what didn’t. Meet with them to review the feedback and get their input.
Once you have analyzed everything, send final messages to your families, staff and alumni. These messages should be slightly different for each audience, but the format will be the same.
To begin, summarize your assessment of what happened. Provide a short recap of the situation and how your camp responded and evolved during these tough times.
Next, clarify how COVID-19 will impact your camp experience in the future. Explain how you are modifying programming, policies or procedures. Announce any staffing changes or modifications to sessions or dates. If you do not have all the answers, be honest. Reassure your audience that you are developing strategies to keep campers safe and you will share the details with them as soon as you have the information.
The most important part of your final message is often the most neglected. Remember to say, “thank you”. Your camp community believed in you and remained by your side. Show them how much you appreciate their trust and loyalty. Make sure they know their support did not go unnoticed. This will help you to build lasting relationships, ultimately increasing camper return rates, staff retention and potential donor dollars.
In addition to emailing these messages to your audiences, publish the same content prominently on your website. Keep your lines of communication open. Encourage your families, staff and alumni to stay in touch with you if they have any questions or concerns related to this crisis. Consistent and persistent communication throughout the summer will allow you to bounce back from this situation and gain momentum for next summer.
As challenging as this set of circumstances has been for your families, your communities and for your camp business; it will pass and be replaced by the excitement, laughter and singing of your campers in Summer 2021.