COVID-19 has disrupted the way the world normally functions and its response to combat the pandemic by shutting down the global economy and pushing industries into a clash with uncertainty has only raised the importance of communication.
Companies are taking swift measures and coming up with coping mechanisms as they struggle to ensure the well-being of their employees, think about their business’ viability going forward and the efficiency of the work-from-home system.
Most companies are confused about whether they should stop all brand communications or keep going at it, as everyone is in survival mode. However, it is crucial for brands to focus on proactive, fact-based communications with all stakeholders – employees, customers and business partners to avoid unnecessary panic.
Globally, we are witnessing a lot of leaders proactively communicating about the situation. A very good example of this is the way Singapore and its Head of State have gone about to quell their citizens’ unease and fears during this pandemic. The Prime Minister of Singapore has constantly addressed the public via both social media and traditional media to address the public’s concerns and shed light on the situation and how it is being tackled. The key is to find an optimal balance between transparency in communication and unnecessary information that might cause hysteria.
Learnings from this crisis would go a long way for us— how businesses and brands have transformed themselves, prioritised and found new and effective ways to communicate with their employees and clients all the while bracing for the economic impact it may have on all of us.
Lately, I have been bombarded with crisis communication queries from a lot of people in the industry and I understand we need to help each other out to get through these circumstances. Here are a few tips on how businesses can practice effective communication as we tide through this unprecedented time.
Redraw your communication plan
Most businesses have a communication plan in accordance with their business goals but due to the crisis, many companies have had to put in place new priorities based on the situation and how it is affecting their industry.
Therefore, to align with your new set of immediate objectives, you have to go back to the drawing board and rethink your communications strategy and come up with a new plan on how to relay it sincerely to your audience.
For example, if your previous immediate goal was to raise funds or get more business, the crisis might have affected you to re-prioritise survival. To keep your stakeholders engaged and stable, you would need to quickly redraw a short-term and long-term communication plan for the same.
Communicate with your team internally
Your crisis communication internally should occur with regularity as developments unfold. Don’t avoid communicating about the risks and challenges facing the company. Communication in all companies works top-down and in a situation like this keeping your core team informed will help them effectively communicate downwards. This way all stakeholders will be on the same page and saying the same things.
Be proactive in knowledge-sharing
Not every company is poised to directly impact the COVID-19 situation, but one can help other players in the ecosystem by sharing information about what’s working for them and the strategies that are to deflect impact on your business. But it is also important to make sure whatever you are communicating externally is useful and essential, and not just for the sake of communication.
Be in touch with your external stakeholders
Crisis communication is all about evolving your communication as you move along.
It is pertinent to keep updating your stakeholders both internally and externally as and when a new development happens. You need to make sure there is continuous real-time communication to identify and solve the concerns of your external stakeholders.
For example, let your customers know what steps your business has taken to protect them from exposure to the virus. Tailor your message to your audiences and use all the social media channels available to you. Silence is not golden. Sharing facts in real-time, rather than waiting until you have all the answers, will go a long towards encouraging trust.
Two-way communication is the need of the hour
Now more than ever, it is critical you establish mediums for two-way communication with all your stakeholders. Whether it is through a townhouse, Zoom, Slack, email or social media, you need to know how they are feeling and what is on their mind, regardless of whether they are your employees or customers. Fear levels are rapidly escalating, which impact our society and the economy.
During the time of crisis, they will rely on your organisation’s leadership to provide answers, solutions and guidelines to follow and thus it is vital to maintain open, transparent communication with the community. People panic when they feel a lack of control, and if you are consistent, calming, and communicative, you will be supporting those who matter the most and protecting your organisation’s best interests.
(Edited by Apoorva Puranik)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)