A new playbook for communicating your reopening plans

By Jennifer Hellman

With the lifting of stay-at-home orders and the easing of restrictions across the U.S., many businesses and organizations are managing their reopenings in the coming days and weeks. As difficult as it was to decide how and when to close your doors a couple of months ago, deciding what’s next is even more daunting. There aren’t yet clear guidelines for many industries and we’ve never been here before.

No matter how you decide to pursue reopening, your audiences will be looking to you for transparent communication about these decisions. While communicating is more important than ever, this pandemic has turned our playbook on its head. As you begin communicating your reopening plans, we’ve reconsidered some new communications strategies for the COVID-19 era.

Old: Wait to communicate until you have all the information and decisions made.

New: Before COVID-19, we encouraged organizations to wait to communicate to avoid speculation. Now, we are in a unique time where no one knows what’s next and we have to make our best guesses with the limited information available to us.

So, let people in on your thinking. Communicate all of the scenarios you are considering. This shows that you are prepared for – and considering – almost anything. It’s less important to communicate your final plan than it is your process for getting there: What is it? Who is involved? What is guiding your decision-making? This instills confidence that you have the best minds at the table.

Old: Communicate only when you have new information to share.

New: Your audiences are feeling uncertain and unsettled. If they don’t hear from you, then they’ll feel like nothing is getting done. We recommend communicating regularly, even if there isn’t a significant update to share. This will show how much is going on behind the scenes and keep your audiences loyal and as patient as possible while you make your decisions.

Old: Try to minimize your bad news.

New: Sharing your bad news – like layoffs, closures and poor financial results – used to show weakness, a sign of the deteriorating health of your organization. Today, there is no segment going unaffected by this pandemic. Now that everyone is in this struggle together, you should be more open about the challenges you face. This can instill the trust and goodwill your organization and leadership will need as you begin rebuilding.

We often say that organizations are judged more on their response to a crisis than the crisis itself. This holds true for how your business or institution weathers this pandemic regardless of how significantly you’ve been impacted. The measure of success as we re-emerge will be resiliency and creativity, and your ability to demonstrate those traits as you communicate with the audiences most important to you.

What to watch: How Minnesota leaders may respond to bleak economic outlook

By Pierre Willette

With the Legislature’s regular session adjourned, the attention of state leaders turns to the road ahead, which promises to be just as unusual as the regular session. We can be certain that once the political dust settles on immediate issues like a bonding bill, the extent of the Governor’s peacetime emergency powers, and any movement on tax relief measures, the next crisis for Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders to address will be the state’s bleak economic outlook.

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) issued a state budget projection earlier this month that projects a nearly $4 billion swing from earlier this year. The projection notes that “the $2.359 billion budget reserve remains available to mitigate the budgetary impact of the crisis. Given the uncertainty about the path of pandemic, the economic outlook will remain volatile for some time.” We are hearing that these numbers will only get worse and that the state will be looking at spending its entire budget reserve (and then some).

Here is what we will be watching for over the next few months:

How and when Governor Walz renews/ends the state’s peacetime emergency. Criticisms related to checks and balances and overreach of executive powers have, and will continue, to dominate political discourse. How long the peacetime emergency and related executive powers last will shape all discussions of the state’s projected budget deficit and how to address it.

How long a special session lasts. While the Governor is likely to call the Legislature into a special session as soon as June 12, he doesn’t have the power to adjourn them. If there continues to be criticism of the Governor’s actions, there may be pressure for the Legislature to not adjourn and instead use its powers to apply pressure to the administration.

How federal money flows. Federal CARES Act funding will be critical to prop open much of the state’s economy. But again, legislators have frustration if they are not brought into the decision-making process of how and when those dollars are spent. Despite pressure to spend these funds to assist folks and stimulate the economy, the state may not do so all at once, which might help the state’s budget limp by as the economy recovers.

What will be asked of the state moving forward. Even with tremendous state and federal assistance and the possibility of reopening the economy more each month, businesses will continue to seek state support, which will be more difficult as the state’s budget problems deepen. Similarly, individuals and families will continue to struggle and seek assistance. Expect this to have a trickle-down effect on other sectors like consumer spending, which state government heavily relies on.

The length of economic tails of COVID-19. While state legislatures are not always known for their long-term planning, addressing the structural budget problems created by COVID-19 will take more than one five-month legislative session.

November elections. As we saw this session (and nearly every session previously), partisan control of the Governor’s office and legislative bodies plays a significant role in the approach to budget deficits whether through tax increases or scope of budget cuts. If action on the current biennium budget is delayed until next year, there could be a new set of players that will shape this discussion.

In short, by June 30, 2021, lawmakers must balance the state budget for the current biennium because Minnesota cannot deficit spend. Dealing with the state budget will be like trying to address the virus itself – the state will have to make the best decisions it can based on the information available. Minnesota will continue to lack certainty in long-term revenue forecasts which will make solving a budget deficit even more difficult. Lawmakers will be forced to look at more immediate, bold and difficult decisions or be relegated to budget tinkering efforts to make ends meet.

Q&A with Team Goff: Reporters to follow

As our team continues to work from home, we’ve been checking in to see what everyone’s new routines are, how they are staying busy and how they are adapting to the current state of the world.

Whether in the office or at home, keeping up with local news is an essential part of Ashley Aram’s routine.

This week we asked: Which local reporter would you recommend following on Twitter to stay plugged into community or business news?

“Brian Bakst (@Stowydad), Theo Keith (@TheoKeith) and Dana Ferguson (@bydanaferguson) are reporters I’ve come to trust to keep me informed these days.” – Kevion Ellis

“Star Tribune politics and government reporter Briana Bierschbach (@bbierschbach) has been a great resource to follow for any news updates on the state level.” – Caroline Burns

“Tom Hauser (@thauserkstp) – I think he does a great job on the political front while injecting some fun and personality into his account.” – Andrew Hasek

“Angela Davis (@AngelaDavisMPR), Nicole Norfleet (@NicoleNorfleet) and Chris Hewitt (@HewittStrib) are helping keep me informed.” – Grace Rose

“There are lots of great local reporters sharing content: Jason DeRusha (@DeRushaJ), Torey Van Oot (@toreyvanoot), Fred Melo (@FrederickMelo) and Dave Orrick (@DaveOrrick) to name a few. Newspapers and media outlets are struggling right now and many reporters are taking furlough – which also means a break in their Twitter feeds. So, make sure you follow multiple reporters to stay in the know, and do what you can to support your local media!” – Ashley Aram

Q&A with Team Goff: How we’re spending our down time

Chris Beeth pictured alongside his canine colleague, Anakin. He brings deep expertise in home security operations and food processing, as well as a trendsetting fashion sense.

As our team continues to work from home, we’ve been checking in to see what everyone’s new routines are, how they are staying busy and adapting to the current state of the world.

This week we asked: What movies, shows, books or games have you been into recently?

“I’m not usually a video gamer, but I picked up ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ for the Nintendo Switch right as we were adjusting to this new normal. Cultivating plants and building projects on my not-so-deserted island is a fun escape, especially on cold and rainy days.” – Cali Owings

 

“To balance the influx of serious COVID-19 news, I’ve been regularly listening to the delightful British banter between BBC Radio 5’s Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo.” – Chris Beeth

 

“My husband and I are addicted to the New York Times crossword puzzles. If we spent as much time puzzling over the next million-dollar idea as we do working on those puzzles, we’d probably be retired by now.” – Jen Hellman

 

“I’m watching a great international show on Netflix called ‘Fauda’ and I’m currently reading ‘A Peace to End All Peace’ by David Fromkin.” – Kevion Ellis

 

“I’ve always kept long lists of books I’ve wanted to read or movies I’ve wanted to see. So, I’m using this time at home to chip away at it more. I finally got around to seeing ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ last weekend – I can see why it’s a classic!” – Grace Rose

 

“The collected essays of Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans), ‘The Hall of Uselessness.’” – Chris Georgacas