Create Your Communications Plan:
Based on the information you've gleaned in the earlier steps (see Jennifer's previous blog here), it's time to start thinking about how you want to handle your business and what you want to say. There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to treatment—how long it will take to recover from a procedure, when you won't be feeling well or if you'll have an unexpected side effect. And, add a few weeks or months to that treatment calendar because that's just the way the medical world rolls.
It's also important to realize you may not have all the answers at a given time. That was hard for me to handle, especially as a consultant when you're expected to have answers. Admitting what you know and don't know, or that the situation is fluid. Be honest.
What you can tell a client is that you'll keep them abreast of any changes that might affect their service, and, for example, that you may have a backup at the ready to perform seamlessly so they shouldn't experience any interruption in work.
For clients I often create a practice “Q & A” before participating in a media interview. What do you think a client (or family member or peer) might ask you when you tell them? Try to anticipate and then create answers (in your mind or on paper) so you are comfortable with the response.
At a certain point, once my treatment was more certain, I wanted to share the news with some of my clients (especially those I had long-time relationships with).
The Backup Plan:
For one client, I identified a trusted “backup”; a colleague who could help out when I was unavailable. The backup can be “invisible” to the client or a transparent member of your team. I wanted my client to know that there was an experienced hand at the ready so work would continue. And when I made the decision to step away from work during treatment, the transition to my colleague was a smooth one for the client.
The decision how to work and whether to work when you are self employed is based on a unique set of circumstances only you know. Every situation is so different. Further down the road, I might realize I could have done things differently. But I still believe the decision I made was the best one for me and my health. But having a plan and a message – and a little PR know-how—turned out to be useful.
Jennifer Moire is a public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C./St. Louis area, and currently blogs about her experiences with cancer at www.TheBigCandMe.com.