A Coronavirus Communication Lesson From the API Community
This is all so different from any crisis I’ve lived through professionally. On 9/11, I was in Texas about to start day two of a two-day training program. It was “risk management” for a half-day. Then everything changed.
Even before I was able to get home (more than a week later because the airlines weren’t flying and then no flights into DCA, my home airport), I was faced with all the issues of how to go forward for clients with upcoming meetings to be held as early as October 2001. We needed to determine if they could proceed, what change in programming should be made, and most of all, we needed to assure those who were registered and those who still might that the group was going forward.
It was daunting—to plan for more contingencies and to find the words and actions to comfort people. There was no one not impacted by the actions of that day.
What had been a relatively simple act of registering for a meeting or planning to attend an event, making hotel and transportation reservations, became entirely different. The changes of security, at first annoying to many, have become routine.
For the last three months, we are again faced with a new threat and great limitations on travel. We need to determine messaging for events that we hope will go forward and those that cannot be held because of “stay at home” directives. And we need to be sensitive to the upheaval in everyone’s lives because of an unseen virus lurking potentially in every cough or sneeze or even breath.
Groups, among them clients, are trying to determine what to say—how to be reassuring about meetings they hope will be held after June and into the latter part of 2020—and how to encourage registration for events for 2020 and into 2021.
For many, messaging needs to encourage helping small and large business while being cautious of the health dangers we all face. For others, like my friend, there are very personal and business implications of what is being said.
I reached out to John Chen of Geoteaming after we spoke at the conference at which I facilitated education in early March. It was difficult to not talk about what I consider a slur of how some referred to COVID-19. I am grateful for his contribution and advocacy on inclusion and eliminating hate around the language used.
I also thank PBS NewsHour’s March 4 segment for this segment detailing the devastation to San Francisco’s Chinatown area for raising awareness of our messaging and what we can do to truly live the inclusion we say we practice in our industry. I have heard from many in other cities of the devastation to businesses owned by Chinese-Americans even prior to the stay at home orders.
We must do better. We cannot say we are inclusive if our actions do not reflect this. What a great time to say loudly or produce PSAs to tout the diversity of cities in which many live and to which many of us will travel again one day.
Positive, Thoughtful Message of a Canceled Event
John sent me the following messaging used to advise of a canceled 2020 event in Seattle. It is positive and thoughtful and a good guideline for what we all can do.
John wrote to me:
“We, The API [Asian Pacific Islanders] Heritage Month Celebration Committee, recognize our community is under attack by more than the coronavirus. API businesses and restaurants are in danger due to reduced revenue. API cultures fear for their safety as some blame API’s for the coronavirus, some have referred to it as the “Chinese Virus” (the correct name is COVID-19 or coronavirus). We believe it’s more important than ever to spread the word of The API Heritage Month Celebration and celebrate all our important API cultures.”
Here is the message API Heritage Month Celebration 2020 sent about the cancelation to the public. It can serve as a guide for thoughtful communication in such matters:
Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month Celebration May 2020
It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the cancellation of this year’s API Heritage Month Seattle Center Festál (due to have taken place May 3, 2020 at the Seattle Center Armory).
This is not a decision we have taken lightly and there is one overriding concern that caused us to make this decision at this time. On 23 March 2020, our (Washington state) governor issued a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
Thus, as of March 24, The API Heritage Month Seattle Center Festál cannot guarantee the one thing that we are entrusted to conduct: a safe, large-scale, high-quality one-day festival that attracts over 5,000 people to the Seattle Center to celebrate all API (Asian Pacific Islander) cultures.
We support the governor in “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” the same governor who signs the API Heritage Month Proclamation each year.
We, the API Heritage Month Celebration Committee, embody the traits that we are proud of—API cultures, hard work, creativity, passion and innovation.
We, The API Heritage Month Celebration Committee, also recognize our community is under attack by not only the coronavirus. API businesses and restaurants are in danger due to reduced revenue. API cultures fear for their safety as some blame API’s for the coronavirus, some have referred to it as the “Chinese Virus” (the correct name is COVID-19 or coronavirus). We believe it’s more important than ever to spread the word of The API Heritage Month Celebration and celebrate all our important API cultures.
We are PROUD to announce that on May 3, we will kick off, virtually The API Heritage Month Celebration at:
- Website: apiheritage.com
- Facebook: facebook.com/apiheritage
- Instagram: instagram.com/apiheritage
- Twitter: twitter.com/apiheritage
We will have a livecast beginning May 3, 2020, AND every day through May. We will feature an API performer video, highlighting an API community resource and/or featuring an API restaurant. All you must do is like or follow any of these pages. If you support us, just do us the best favor and SHARE our posts with others.
The API Heritage Month Celebration Seattle Center Festál Committee thanks you for your ongoing support, participation, and contribution in making our annual event a success.
We encourage you to stay healthy. We are sharing some key coronavirus and API resources below, and look forward to getting through these challenging times and hoping that we can celebrate with you in person on 2 May 2021 at The API Heritage Month Celebration Seattle Center Festál, #coronavirus free.
The API Heritage Month Committee Seattle Center Festál Coronavirus Resources:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Washington State Department of Health
- Support the ID - Community United Facebook Group
Read Joan's April blog next: COVID-19: Trust, Information, Solidarity and Change
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