To prevent another national lockdown, the government is using local lockdowns and restrictions to target COVID-19 outbreaks.
We explain the steps you can take to respond to local restrictions, where you can find reliable information, and how to create a public relations plan.
How will local lockdown affect my business?
What if an outbreak is traced back to my premises?
What if my business is forced to close again?
My business is COVID-19 secure, what more can I do?
As local lockdowns and restrictions are new – and can be imposed suddenly - it can be difficult to predict exactly how your business could be impacted.
A PR crisis can happen to any business, and if you’re a small business owner or self-employed, support with public relations management is invaluable. For example, if an outbreak is traced back to your premises, you may be subject to negative press and media attention.
What does local lockdown mean?
Local lockdowns are where areas of higher infection rates have been identified, and so measures are put in place to prevent further spread, such as limiting people visiting each other’s homes.
The government has outlined their approach in England for managing local coronavirus outbreaks. You should follow specific government guidance in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland to help reduce the likelihood of restrictions.
Local restrictions - if the virus continues to spread, either a local authority or the government can restrict activities at particular locations and close individual premises.
National intervention - if these restrictions have not been enough, the government can put further measures in place, which might involve shutting businesses that would otherwise be allowed to open.
Which areas are at risk of local lockdown?
The situation is rapidly changing, so keep an eye on your local authority website and government guidelines.
- You can find an up-to-date list of areas with local restrictions in England on the government website.
- Find your local council.
- Reach out to your local FSB Development Manager for support – log onto your member dashboard to find their contact details.
- Follow your local FSB region on Twitter for updates – they’ll be sharing new information and you can find other FSB members in your area.
- Visit our coronavirus hub for the latest news, resources and guidance.
How to prepare for a local lockdown
It’s a good idea to make local lockdown preparations a part of your normal business continuity planning to help protect your small business. FSB members can download a free BCP kit from FSB Insurance Service.
Learn from how your business managed during national lockdown, and monitor how businesses in newly restricted areas are responding.
1. Be informed
Your first step is to familiarise yourself with the guidelines that have been announced by the government for your area– this will let you know what can and can’t carry on, and how long the restrictions are expected to be in place.
2. Stay safe
If your business can remain open, are there additional health and safety measures that you can put in place to protect staff and customers? In the case of a local outbreak, reassurance that you’re COVID-19 secure and collecting details where necessary to support test and trace schemes is vital.
3. Manage your team
Keep your employees informed about decisions you’re making, whether it’s temporarily closing or reducing business hours. Check the rules on re-furloughing staff if needed, as the scheme has changed and no longer accepts new applicants. However, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends on 31 October 2020, and from 1 August 2020 employers must gradually contribute more towards furloughed employee wages. Find out more about how the furlough scheme is changing.
4. Monitor operations
If restrictions return, think about what you learnt from the initial lockdown:
- How can you best run and adapt your business?
- What systems do you need to have in place?
- Do you need to move more of your business online?
- Have you built up your digital presence?
If you’ve got more than once branch in different areas, you’ll need to plan for how you’ll respond if only some of your business falls under the restrictions.
Communicating with customers is key. It was important during the peak of the crisis, and it’s been vital to reassure customers. Keep them in the know about what your business is doing. For example, if your local authority is advising people to limit their travel, are you increasing your delivery options?
6. Get advice
Our team of PR experts are on hand to support members with any issues or questions. For example, if you’re dealing with negative press, or you’re unsure how to respond to media enquiries, we’re here to advise you. Don’t panic alone – we’re only a phone call away!
Create your public relations plan
Once you’re prepared and have the right systems in place, create a PR plan that you can put into place if local lockdown is announced. It should outline your strategy for managing how your business is seen in the eyes of the public.
New to PR planning? Here are some questions to get you started.
Who is on your PR crisis team?
This team will be responsible for making decisions on what you’ll be communicating and to who, for instance to customers or the media. Areas with outbreaks are getting increased media coverage, so consider any employee who could be affected. Questions might be directed at your customer services or front of house staff, so ensure they’re briefed.
What questions might be asked?
Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll be asked, but in the case of a local lockdown, it’s likely that questions will centre on health and safety concerns, as well as the safety of any employees. Think about who might be asking questions, such as customers, the media, stakeholders and even those who live nearby.
Are you prepared to reassure customers?
Evidence such as following COVID-19 guidelines, certificates and risk assessments are all helpful in maintaining your reputation as a business. It demonstrates your commitment to safety, so it’s vital to communicate this.
How will you respond to media?
There has been a lot of media attention on areas that have already experienced restrictions or lockdown. You’ll need to ensure you communicate with any media or press quickly and effectively, and know how to respond to negative reviews online.
For example, will you put out a press release or respond on your social media? An approvals process helps you ensure all information being reported is accurate and represents your business in the best light.
Once you’ve made your plan and included all the key information, make copies and share with your PR crisis team. Review it regularly to see if any areas could be improved.
Investing in your business profile and effectively communicating with your customers through this crisis will put you in a better position when business returns to normal.
How we can help
If you find your business in the middle of a local lockdown, or an outbreak is traced back to your premises, it can be overwhelming. Our team of PR experts can give you the support you need to handle a crisis.