How to communicate coronavirus prevention measures

A man tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) over the weekend in Manatee County, Florida, near Peace River Electric Cooperative (PRECO). On Monday, the 45,000-member electric cooperative temporarily closed their lobbies in an effort to limit potential person-to-person spread of the virus. In-home efficiency audits have been suspended, too.

Sample Facebook Post from PRECOThe co-op explained the precautions in a website notice and social media channels.

How did co-op members react? Some applauded the move, especially since all business can be done online, over the phones, or on PRECO’s SmartHub app.

“Kudos for you for looking after your employees,” posted Nathan Standifer on the co-op’s Facebook page.

Other PRECO members mocked or seemed baffled by the closure, since staff still go home and circulate in the community.

“LOL that’s nuts… like your employees don’t go anywhere else,” posted Wendy Lee.

Utility Guidance

Many of our utility members live in states with confirmed COVID-19 cases. In Washington, public power utility leaders met over the weekend to discuss prevention measures. Some opted to curtail travel, while others are considering office closures.

We hope COVID-19 gets stamped out quickly, but we want to help you prepare for the worst. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance to businesses on how best to respond to the quickly spreading virus. Routine cleaning, keeping sick employees at home, and limiting travel top the list of tips.

In addition to following CDC developments, reach out to your local public health officials and emergency management team. Make sure your utility is included in local readiness and response plans if a public health emergency hits. Get started with this directory of local health departments.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association addressed concerns last week on the Communicators Listserv. Since each co-op’s response and staffing structure varies, there are no general talking points yet.

Stephen Bell, NRECA’s senior director of media and public relations, offered 2 suggestions:

  • Do you have a pandemic-response staffing plan in place? If so, use it to build talking points and messaging.
  • Review your crisis communications plan through the lens of the coronavirus outbreak. Do you need to add clarity or answer new questions?

“As the external conversation evolves, you may get questions related to how your co-op plans to keep the lights on, process bills, and staff offices during a possible quarantine,” says Stephen. “These questions can only be answered based on how your co-op plans to structure, staff, and respond to an evolving event.”

Don’t have a crisis plan? Pioneer’s free eBook, Coping with a Crisis, includes sample crisis communication plans to get you started.

3 of the graphics available as a free download to help utility communicators.

Social Media Tools

Pioneer Social subscribers will find draft social media posts and graphics with COVID-19 safety messages in the Alerts and Notices content library. You can try our content-rich social media scheduling and monitoring service for free!

Pioneer Social

If there are other ways Pioneer can help support you with pandemic prevention communications or other tools, please let us know.