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Crisis Communication Strategies For Golf Operators

Posted by Stephanie Vozza on March 18, 2020

When an emergency strikes, such as the current COVID-19 outbreak, a normal response is one of fear as we try to understand and cope with the uncertainty it can bring. From adapting to new working environments to finding substitutes for favorite activities, many of us are trying to find a new normal amidst the chaos.

In times like these, it's crucial for golf courses to have a plan in place to interact with customers, members and the public. Whether it’s a pandemic or a natural disaster, organizations need to properly inform stakeholders of the actions they’re taking that could impact customers.

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What Is an Emergency Communication Plan?

Like any business, golf courses need to create an emergency communication plan that includes a set of guidelines to follow in the case of an emergency or unexpected event. The plan should be broken down into steps that include internal and external actions and communications. The steps should include information for employees, members, customers, media, the general public, and any other valuable stakeholders. While the information will likely vary depending on the crisis, having a plan helps ease the stress of the situation by providing a quick way to respond and take action. 

 

When To Use Your Plan

Different situations may call for different actions. An emergency communication plan should cover the expected as well as unexpected events.

COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is greatly affecting how golf courses operate. In a situation like this, immediately alert customers with information on how your organization is responding. For example, some operations may need to close completely while others can remain open with limited services until the government determines it is once again safe to pursue activities. 

Be proactive and address concerns immediately by sending an email or text, and create social media posts that share details about the changes to your business that may affect them. Also, provide customers with a way to contact you with concerns or questions.

Natural Disasters

Just like with a pandemic, it’s important to share information about how a natural disaster, such as a tornado or wildfire, will impact your golf course and your customers and members. With today’s technology, it’s often possible to predict events that could cause a natural disaster so you can better prepare for them. Communicate with customers beforehand, if possible, letting them know how you are keeping everyone safe. 

Your focus should be on your customers instead of your revenue. Consider holding off on sales pitches, signups and billing until you assess the damage and ensure that customers are safe. Be considerate of the stress that your members may be under, and show that your first concern is for their wellbeing.

Unexpected Crisis

If your golf course is affected by an unexpected disaster, like an earthquake, the first step is to survey the course and damage and determine how it will impact your customers. Then, go to social media and other media outlets to share information about your golf course and your response to the crisis. If the damage is severe and you need to limit or close your operation in any way, provide an estimated timeline of when you might reopen.

In this case, be sure to focus on your team and how the crisis may be impacting their job. You may have a higher call volume than normal, with customers trying to find out about the course and damage. Employees who feel that their own concerns are being acknowledged will be better equipped to handle the concerns of customers.

 

How To Create An Emergency Plan 

Once you know the types of crises you need to address, it’s time to formulate the actual plan. Put it in writing and make sure employees understand how to implement it. 

Identify The Purpose & Types

Just as there are several types of crises, your emergency communication plan should have several contingencies. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Determine the different types of situations that could arise, such as COVID-19, natural disaster or unexpected crisis, and decide which unique steps need to be in place for each. Although you may have more than one plan, you should have a common goal: communicating a consistent message to internal and external stakeholders.

Determine Stakeholders

When you create your plan, keep in mind its audience. Make a list of all stakeholders who would need to be informed of an emergency at your golf course. For example, your list may include your employees, members, customers, vendors, investors, media outlets and the community at large. Also identify the best way to notify each type, such as using social media for the public, email for members and text messages for employees.

Create Customer FAQ

A crisis—big or small—will no doubt bring a lot of questions. To address these in the most efficient way possible, it can help to create a FAQ page that’s easy to find on your website or social media platform. You can also send this question-and-answer type of communication via email. By being proactive, you can save time that can be used handling the crisis.

Create Social Channel Guidelines

Today’s customers value transparency from the businesses they frequent, and being proactive with your communication is an essential step of an emergency plan. Prepare social media posts and updates as frequently as possible. Not only will your customers appreciate the effort; you can avoid any speculation that could damage your reputation.

Identify Risks And Implications

Finally, think about the pros and cons of your emergency communication plan. Consider any potential risks you may face and prepare steps for recovering from them. While costs are important to consider, it can be helpful to choose the plan that maximizes benefits while minimizing costs and damages. 

 

Planning for the Future

During a time of fear and uncertainty, the best antidote is providing clear, consistent information. It's important to constantly review your plan and update your communication efforts as new information comes to light. We all hope to never need an emergency plan, but by putting it in place before one strikes we can help lessen the stress it will cause.

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We’ve recommended Chronogolf by Lighspeed to a number of different operators. I feel very good about making that recommendation, you guys have done a great job of following through with everything that I told people you were going to do.

Aaron Gleason,
Walters Golf

Based on more than 100 reviews from operator wordwide.
Read them here.

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