Your coronavirus messaging might land you in court

Take precautions with communications to employees & customers

Sean Murphy

If you’re sending customer and employee communications about the novel coronavirus that say “health and safety is our highest priority,” you’re sending the wrong message and potentially setting your company up for a future lawsuit.


Almost everyone’s email has been inundated with these messages from companies in industries ranging from banks to airlines. It’s a mistake. If you’re a bank, your job is to make sure people have access to their money; if you’re an airline, it’s to help customers work through travel plans if there are restrictions or other challenges. Unless you’re a healthcare provider, your job ISN’T to be the health expert.


Of course, every company should be taking responsible actions that align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other credible authorities. But there’s a big difference between that and taking ownership of the health and safety of others.


The intent seems admirable because companies want to assure people that they’re acting responsibly while demonstrating care. But if you’re a company using this type of “health and safety” hyperbole, you could find yourself in court next year because you didn’t take EVERY precaution. You’re accountable for your words—and possibly liable.


Companies should know that it is possible to be both reassuring AND judicious in your communications to employees, customers and other important constituents. Here’s the difference:

            WRONG: “Your health and safety is our priority.”

            RIGHT: “We’re reaching out to share what we’re doing to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.”


An unprecedented crisis requires a sophisticated communications approach. At CSI, we bring multiple perspectives to every crisis situation—from major crisis experience to deep expertise in creating persuasive psychology-based messaging and supporting the type of litigation that is likely to result from this pandemic.


We’re sharing this insight to help companies re-think their messaging strategies and avoid negative fallout during this highly fluid situation. Our team is available to provide more information.

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