HSS | Communications Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Denver-based HSS provides critical security services for high-risk environments at healthcare, airport and government facilities across the country. Its 3,500 teammates are geographically dispersed, and many are frontline security officers who have extremely limited access to traditional communication methods such as email and/or voicemail.
HSS has an incredibly sophisticated and mature operations department, but its communications team is less robust. When COVID-19 first impacted the U.S. in early 2020, HSS quickly discovered the critical need to partner with communication strategists who could serve as business advisors, identify viable communication channels internally and externally and create and deliver critical communications to its key stakeholders, ranging from teammates (many of whom were deemed essential staff during the pandemic) to clients to shareholders.
HSS retained GroundFloor Media (GFM) to be its communications partner to drive all COVID-19-related communications. In addition, a GFM team member served as the company’s interim outsourced Public Information Officer and interacted daily with C-level executives as a dedicated member of HSS’s Incident Management Team.
Additional GFM team members provided strategic counsel in real-time to help HSS navigate expected and unexpected issues, and they created a strategy to ensure consistent and credible communications with the company’s key stakeholders. This included internal communications that utilized everything from creating virtual town hall events that GFM scripted to emails that the team drafted to text alerts that drove employees to a specific COVID-19 section on the company intranet. It also included regular updates that GFM drafted to client partners, shareholders and board members.
Specifically, GFM developed the following:
- Weekly/bi-monthly virtual town hall forums where the CEO and three other members of the leadership team gave updates and provided an opportunity for employee Q&A via Zoom video conference;
- Internal messaging, talking points and checklists for employees and/or specific employee groups (corporate employees, site leaders/managers, etc.) around topics such as symptoms, confirmed cases, employee death(s), potential strikes and layoffs, as well as communications to employees regarding cloth face mask distribution and return to work strategy; FAQs for intranet platforms HSS Central and the Incident Dashboard, and content for flyers;
- Letters to shareholders, clients and board of directors; and
- An employee appreciation strategy for their staff of essential workers
- The agency also offered counsel and assisted with execution in regard to their external website (including a newsroom refresh) as well as managed social media content and monitoring.
Communications to HSS teammates reached approximately 98% of the total workforce, and attendance at the town halls increased 14% from the first month to the second. HSS had expected attendance to decline as the novelty wore off, but the increased attendance reflected the high-quality content that was extremely relevant to teammates.
Anecdotally, the issues and concerns expressed by HSS teammates also declined as HSS used the town halls and the content on its intranet to address them proactively. Concerns such as the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and a desire for hazard pay could have become lingering issues that negatively impacted employee morale if they had not been addressed clearly, candidly and strategically.