Communication is key: Best practices for communicating during the pandemic
Establish a crisis communication team
In times of unprecedented change, organisations need to be able to communicate with both their customers, stakeholders, and employees at a moment’s notice. Thus, births the need for a crisis-response team. With the coronavirus, we are seeing this happening at all levels. In the UK we have Boris Johnson’s national addresses where he is normally accompanied by the health secretary Matt Hancock and various other senior advisors when addressing the public. Technology giant Intel have developed a standing pandemic leadership team in place, as part of its business continuity planning.
Ideally, these teams should be small, with a member of the leadership team, someone from corporate communications, an HR executive, and an expert in the area of concern. This team should:
- Meet regularly to monitor the situation closely as it continues to evolve.
- Be the main source of information about the crisis.
- Give regular updates to key partners.
- Be as transparent as possible. Explain what you know, what you don’t know, and your sources of information.
- Be succinct. Long turgid messages written by health professionals or lawyers will not be read or easily understood
Create an external communication plan for customers and partners
To develop an effective communication plan, first, evaluate the needs of your audience. Identify the key stakeholders who require updates from your organisation, determine the information they need, the purpose it serves, and who requires it first. Center your comms efforts around compliance, practice, and empowerment by delivering information in a friendly and accessible approach.
Establish communications and messaging strategies for each unique audience that include:
- Assigning an individual in charge of leading communications for each audience
- Messaging tools needed to communicate with each audience, including website, email, texts, blog, and social media
- The tone that you plan to use in all communications
Communicate clearly and frequently
Many workforces have been furloughed, or forcibly moved to part-time hours and in some cases temporary or permanent remote working. Communication is crucial to re-engaging workers. However, according to research by Akumina, nearly three quarters (74%) of employees miss out on important company communications. So, you need to hone your efforts and deliver consistent, clear, and compassionate communication.
What you can do:
- Consider the role your internal communications, employee hubs, and intranets can play in ensuring your messages are getting through.
- Understand how these channels are used by different types of workers and gather insights to engage employees who are returning to work more effectively.
- Explore how you can put inclusive processes in place to proactively seek feedback from employees on their experiences around the return to work. Communication is a dialogue – giving your employees a voice is crucial to maintaining morale.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help in maintaining your communication during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Those who are up to the challenge of improving this essential element of their organisation will eventually come out of the other side of this situation in a much stronger position.