When faced with a crisis of the scale and magnitude of COVID-19, professional communication is key to staying on track. That’s why rbb offers daily briefings on the latest news surrounding the pandemic, featuring important tips for working professionals in this climate. And since we know how difficult it can be to keep up, we’re summarizing what you may have missed every Monday with a roundup of tips and tricks to stay on top.
It’s time to move beyond transactional communications. We recommend a values-oriented communication from the CEO be published on social media, websites and shared with key stakeholders.
CONDUIT NOT SOURCE
For most companies, our business is not that of virology or epidemiology. For that reason, it is important that we serve as conduits for information from the experts, not the source of information. Most organizations are relying heavily on the latest news from the CDC, the World Health Organization and the Department of Homeland Security.
BUSINESS OF THE BUSINESS
While we are all busy responding to the immediate needs for COVID-19, it is critical that daily business activities continue with as much normalcy as possible. Make sure the issue response team is limited only to those individuals that must be engaged and that everyone else is focusing on keeping regular business operations running.
DAILY PHONE CALLS
If you haven’t already started a daily check-in by phone with key leaders addressing COVID-19 issues, now is the time to do so. Information is changing quickly, and it’s important that everyone understands what each part of the organization is doing to respond.
COMMUNICATION + ENGAGEMENT
People aren’t always absorbing email and written communication well at this time. There is too much information circulating, and anxieties are impacting receptivity. Key communication should be combined with engagement in the form of follow-up calls, conference calls, video messaging or virtual meetings.
DATA IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
In today’s world, we don’t have to guess what stakeholders are thinking — we can access that information directly through social media conversation monitoring tools, keyword search analysis and other means. Even free survey tools are a good way to take the pulse of stakeholder groups. With this data, we can better deliver information that meets the needs of the moment.
PLANNING FOR RECOVERY
It may seem daunting in the midst of the challenge to start looking forward, but now is the time to start planning for recovery activities. Marketing programs should be developed and ready to deploy as soon as recovery is on the horizon. Past experience tells us that declines in situations like this are steep and fast, but return to business activity is equally as steep and fast in the other direction.
In a crisis, there is not a single audience. Leadership needs to ensure that any task force mirrors the diverse communities you serve and employ in order to create strategy and communications that are customized to unique nuances and most effectively deliver key information and messages.
MISSION. VISION. VALUES.
It is particularly important right now that communication is wrapped in mission, vision and values. By doing this, companies demonstrate that foundational principles apply at all times, creating a sense of trust that will allow for faster recovery and rebound. This doesn’t mean using the exact mission, vision, and values language – that works for some organizations but not others. It’s more about demonstrating those ideals through stories, examples, policy explanations, etc.
WE’RE ALL IN DIFFERENT PLACES
Previous wide-scale crisis situations have mostly occurred in a way that puts everyone on the same page at the same time. That’s not the case with COVID-19. Some companies have been addressing the issue since January, while others are only starting now. Some people are anxious and worried, others are partying on the beach. As communicators, what we say has to be informed by where stakeholders are on the response continuum. Stepping out of the moment to occasionally consider the larger roadmap – on both a corporate and individual level – is important.
INTERNAL IS EXTERNAL
When internal communication is distributed, particularly regarding a confirmed case, there are individuals who believe they have a social responsibility to share it beyond the organization on social media, through email chains and by providing it to the media. Organizations should be prepared for this and ensure they are ready to respond to media calls before the communication is distributed.
LEMONADE FROM LEMONS
Moving to a virtual/work from home model presents an opportunity to train, engage and enhance usage of a company’s digital resources and social media to increase efficiencies and seed new opportunities.
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING
As the last month has brought lots of uncertainty, this is a time to expect the most unlikely scenarios. As communicators, roleplay, develop response plans and holding statements and test systems to ensure you and your organization are prepared.
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