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Press Release: Using Communications Strategies to Reduce Mask Mandate Mania


Denver, Colorado, July 31, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- To mask? Or not to mask? That is the question. Or is it? It’s a discussion our M&C Communications team recently had on a Facebook Live not too long ago… Now, many businesses, cities and states have their own policies. Between heated discussions to supermarket dust-ups posted on social media, the issue and emotion behind wearing or not wearing a mask has already had a tremendous impact on us as a society. Because these conflicts occur most often at places of business, the burden will fall on a manager or owner to de-escalate an inflammatory situation. Fortunately, there are ways to use effective communication to pro-actively and thoughtfully resolve mask related conflicts before they arise and protect your business or brand from negatively appearing on social media or worse yet, the nightly news.

How did we get here in the first place? Remember when masks didn’t matter and then they did! What changed? There are people who believe this is a health issue and others who believe it is a control issue. As former journalists, we are here to bring you the facts to help your business and brand...not debate the effectiveness of masks.

Early in the pandemic the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) both stated masks would not help prevent the spread or contraction of COVID-19.

  • This tweet by the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
  • And as late as late March, the WHO recommended people not wear masks unless they had COVID-19 or were caring for someone with COVID-19. Source: CNN.
  • In late March., Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program said, “There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there's some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.” He also said, “There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage," Ryan said about masks and other medical supplies.” 

We heard the latter explanation before and here in the U.S., there was certainly a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

When did we get the official notice to start wearing masks? According to this NPR article, it was April 3rd when CDC reversed course stating, “…cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”

  • On July 14th, the CDC issued another press release asking American’s to continue wearing face masks in public. They cited two separate case studies, one from a hair salon in Missouri and another from a hospital in Boston, where face masks were believed to have helped prevent a significant spread of COVID-19. President Trump only encouraged the American people to wear masks last week. Prior to that, his stand had been one of wearing a mask being voluntary.

So what happened between late March to just last week?

Towns, Cities, Counties, States and corporations all moved ahead with their own messaging on masks, which was challenging for them because there is a large enough portion of our population who still believe masks do not help and that this is a way to institute control over our freedom. However, recent data has shown that 3 out of 4 Americans would comply in wearing a mask, up from 6 in 10 in early April. If that is the case, why is this issue so polarizing? And how as a business owner can you keep tempers from boiling over? 

HOW DO YOU ENFORCE FACE MASK RULES? 

Here are 5 steps for you, based on research, on how to enforce a mask mandate. 

  1. Everyone in your business must wear a mask and you must show that your staff are complying. This seems logical. If you want people to comply then you too must show your compliance. You have to “talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk.”.
  2. Clearly post signs and train employees with messaging about your expectations of enforcing the mask mandate. The messaging must go farther than, “We enforce the mask mandate.” Messaging should be written to include why you are enforcing the mandate. A great example might be, “We are doing this to protect you, to protect us and following all mandated health and safety guidelines.” The why in your message is very important. There are people who feel this is an over-step on their civil liberties. You must stay out of that conversation and stick to the facts.
  3. Research shows that people are in different stages of accepting this mandate and changing behavior. One way to help with the acceptance of a new behavior is providing solutions that are easy and effective. Having a box of disposable masks on hand to give to customers lacking one is one way to handle and diffuse a potential mask conflict before it begins. It’s an easy and inexpensive effort on your business’s part to solve a mask issue for your clients or customers. Taking this one step further, you can also position a pleasant person at the front door to greet and gently remind people to wear their masks (if they are not already) or hand out a mask to those without one.
  4. Train your personnel to compliment client and guest masks. Hearing positive comments both directly and indirectly will help in not only normalizing the wearing of masks in your business but also create positive reinforcement. Every client-facing employee should be doing this in your company.
  5. If someone is walking around your business without a mask, you want your employees to intervene before other customers intervene. We suggest the three-time rule:
    • Your employees should request that the person put on their mask, if necessary provide a mask and a supervisor should be alerted
    • The second request should be from the supervisor
    • The third request should be an intervention by the manager or owner and if necessary, ask the person to leave

If you have a city or state mask mandate, relying on your original messaging about WHY you are enforcing the mask mandate (citing health, safety and legal issues) should absolutely be part of the discussion. Your customers seeing you being proactive can help reduce potential conflict and keep your business or brand from becoming the next disappointing viral sensation.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE MASK MANDATE TENSIONS? 

It starts with proper education. What is your business or brand’s messaging? How do you clearly communicate your stance? Do you use a sandwich board set up on the sidewalk outside your front door? What about floor stickers asking for social distancing and reminding customers to wear their mask? Do you hang signage on the front door or windows of your business clearly stating that masks are required? Maybe your employees are wearing company-branded masks? Is there a sponsorship opportunity with your branded masks? what about the use of social media? All of these are visual cues that will help move your message. It boils down to the 4 C’s...clear, consistent, compassionate, and conversational communication.

Clear:

  • Remember that old adage: “Keep it simple, stupid”? It still holds! Keep your sentences short. Stick to one thought per sentence. Look for the most straightforward and direct way to explain things. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver and be honest when the requirements you’re sharing might have changed due to new information.

Compassionate:

  • A key component of good communication is empathy. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about how he or she might receive the message you are sending. People are much more likely to listen to your request when you acknowledge their thoughts and feelings first.
  • As communications surrounding COVID-19 become more politicized, compassionate communication might look like this: “We know that many people are genuinely concerned about their health or the health of their loved ones they live with due to COVID-19. At the same time, we know many people are bothered by wearing a mask or may not be able to due to a medical condition. If you have a special need or request around wearing a mask, please reach out to management so we can discuss your situation.”

Consistent:

  • Remember how 70-93% of communication is non-verbal? Here is where consistency is key! If you are asking employees and clients to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you also need to wear a mask at all times and to wear it correctly. We know from research that modeling the desired behavior is a key component of achieving the desired result. 

Conversational:

  • Think about the difference between a great conversation with a friend where you learned something useful, maybe a new recipe or how to fix a challenging problem. Now think about the last time you were sitting in a classroom, trying to digest a complicated new concept like algebra. The Mayo Clinic website explains learning something new is easier with simple, direct language free of jargon that feels friendly, open, and non-threatening. 

The 4 Cs are useful tools whether you are communicating in person, through email, websites, or social media. No matter what your message, be clear, compassionate, consistent, and conversational and you will supercharge your impact! 

As a business owner, it is incumbent on you to provide a safe and inviting location where your customers and clients can feel safe and happy. A great experience is so important. Think ahead, have a plan, and use our tips to help you navigate the mask mandate mania.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

At M&C Communications, we don't do PR. Not in the traditional sense, anyway.

We do Brand Protection: helping companies and non-profits build active communities, deflect negative public relations, and build trust to stand head-and-shoulders above their competitors.

We do Insider Media Relations: using our experience as local and network journalists to help you navigate the shifting sands of traditional and social media so your message makes an impact.

We do Crisis Communications: using our unique Brand Protection Tool process to help create durable crisis communications plans and deftly handle life's curveballs. 

At M&C Communications, we do results, not excuses. We do substance, not style. We do strategy, not PR.

So, what can we do for you?

Diane Mulligan
M&C Communications
720-273-0927
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Posted: 2020-07-31 08:30:00

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Fri, 31 Jul 2020 01:46:00 GMT

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