Brands must focus on proactive, fact-based communications with all the stakeholders
By Upasna Dash
COVID 19 has disrupted the way the world normally functions and amidst the outbreak, as the world prepares to fight through the health pandemic by shutting down the global economy and propelling industries into a battle with uncertainty, communication has become all the more important.
Businesses are taking swift measures and coming up with coping mechanisms as they struggle to meet the well-being of their employees, viability of the business going forward and efficiency of the work from home system. Most companies are confused if they should stop all brand communication or keep going at it as everyone is in survival mode. However, it’s crucial for brands to focus on proactive, fact-based communications with all stakeholders – employees, customers and business partners to avoid unnecessary panic and mayhem.
Globally we are witnessing a lot of leaders proactively communicating about the situation. A very good example of effective crisis communication is the way Singapore and its Head of State have gone over and above 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 calmly address the public’s concerns and shed light on the situation and how it’s 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, prioritized 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.
Over the past few weeks, I have been constantly aiding founders and brands on navigating through this difficult period using impactful communication. Here are some quick and effective tips to practice effective communication during this period
Redraw your communication plan
Most businesses have a communication plan in place 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’s 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 communication strategy and come up with a new plan on how to communicate them sincerely with 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-prioritize survival and 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 the 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, however, what one can do is help other players in the ecosystem by sharing information about what’s working for you and the strategies you have incorporated to deflect impact on your business. But it’s 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’s pertinent to keep updating your stakeholders both internally and externally as and when a new development happens. You need to make sure there’s 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. Regardless, fear levels are rapidly escalating, which impacts our society and economy. During the time of crisis, they will rely on your organization’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 most and protecting your organization’s best interests.
The author is founder and CEO, Jajabor Brand Consultancy