Communication in the Time of COVID-19

15 June 2021

Blog Business Communications Content Consulting Internal Communications Service

Panchalee Thakur

Heads of states using video conferencing to discuss global issues. Large conferences being rescheduled as web events. Teams working in different time zones e-meeting over drinks, while sitting in their own homes.

As COVID-19 sweeps through countries, governments, businesses and individuals are trying to stay connected through digital communication even as they insulate themselves from the outbreak.

During these uncertain times caused by COVID-19, you cannot overemphasis the role of communication. We have seen how some heads of states have risen to the occasion to reassure citizens with clear and consistent messaging, while others have spread more confusion and panic with incorrect information and ambiguous statements.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau at his home office (photo source: Trudeau’s Twitter handle)

Some organisations have shown remarkable agility by quickly putting new marketing and communications plans in place – turning to digital technologies to reach out to customers, employees and partners.

At a time when there is widespread distress and uncertainty, organisations need to step up their communications efforts. These efforts must aim to instil trust and confidence in their customers, employees and partners.

Why must you pay more attention to communications?

1.     Your customers and partners want to hear from you: Your customers are concerned about business continuity. This is the time to show concern, listen to them and help them tide over the crisis. Since COVID-19 has ensured they will be spending a lot of their time in front of their desktops, there is a higher chance now of your digital communication being seen or read.

2.    Your employees want to feel reassured: Change is highly unsettling and employees are still trying to grasp all that is going on around them. They want to be regularly updated on new developments, and measures and policies that the company is adopting to contain the crisis and its impact. They also want a realistic view of the state of the business.

3.    Your remote team needs to stay connected: Not everybody is good at working alone. Some thrive working in groups, while others enjoy their quiet corners. Some can change their mode of work easily, while others take time to settle into a new environment and working style. But to keep the team together and ensure they don’t feel disconnected, keep the communication channels buzzing. 

Here are some quick ideas on what you can do:

1.    If you’re a CXO – Increase the frequency of emails to key customers and your employees. Whether you’re talking to a customer or an employee, go beyond business, show you care and keep it real. For instance, putting a positive spin on the business situation (when it is not at all positive) is not going to cut it. Instead touch upon your concerns and fears, and what measures you are taking to address those.

Create video messages for your teams. Draft answers to potential questions at all-hands before you address employees so that the messages are well thought out and consistent.

Use your company blogsite and social media more frequently to not just address current issues but also steer conversations back to business.

2.   If you drive sales and marketing – The pressure on sales and marketing will increase as they will have to find new routes to customers and prospects. Digital will of course be the primary channel for at least some time, which means learning how to sell and market digitally. With the prospect of face-to-face meetings going out for a while, sales and marketing will need to align their efforts better and move towards digital communications. How you draft an email will be critical since there is little prospect of a face-to-face follow-up. 

Marketers will also need to rethink on ways to can create content more frequently to keep the engagement levels high. Think of re-purposing existing assets into different formats – a blog into a podcast, a series of instructive blogs into a handy guide or case studies particularly relevant today packaged into an electronic direct mail.

3.   If you head a team – Step up internal communications. Make your internal newsletters and emails a platform to motivate your team for the rough and tumble ahead. Set expectations on new working styles, provide guidance on how they can adjust to the newly defined roles (for example, tele-sales tips to your sales team) and applaud team members who have gone beyond their call of duty during this time. 

These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary leadership. Be more visible, transparent and empathetic, and create strong connections with your internal and external audience. Define your leadership through words and action.

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