The Covid-19 crisis has reminded us of some of the things we have taken for granted, one of them being communication.
On a social level, current restrictions has left some people feeling isolated while others are embracing new technologies to help. It has been interesting watching my 7-year-old son navigate the etiquettes of video conferencing with his classmates.
Their first experience was painful to watch but with time, they mastered the art of virtual turn taking and the use of the mute button.
In a time of crisis, there is a lot of communication going on ranging from government guidelines to operational responses to conspiracy theories. The volume of information can sometimes be overwhelming or turn into a monotonous drill that brings a dark cloud over the reader. Given the critical emotional implications of communication it is worth considering how your organisation is doing in this area.
Internal communications teams are tasked with covering new procedures, key change updates and resources available for their well-being. However, conflicting messages or huge amounts of information can lead to anxiety, so bite sized, consistent and transparent messaging is crucial. It is also important to recognise that staff need normalcy so keeping in the regular features during crisis communication can be a breath of fresh air. So if you regularly run features like individual awards, team spotlights or announcements of special events or anniversaries keep doing it. Two-way communication and social platforms like Yammer provide reassuring interactions so should be kept open but should also be closely monitored. It is worth refreshing the guidelines for interacting on these platforms so content is both sensitive and appropriate.
External communications can be more difficult to navigate but are equally important. The travel industry is a case in point. With so many holidays hanging in the balance, customers want more than the general company’s guidelines – they want a personal assurance either in the form of an email or a phone conversation. This makes all the difference between a good or bad review. I had booked a holiday for May and have been keeping everything crossed that I wouldn’t be left out of pocket. I hesitated to call my travel agent because I feared bad news even though I kept checking their website. Imagine my relief when they finally emailed me saying that the holiday is unlikely to go ahead and explaining my options – none of which involved being out of pocket!
Both big and small businesses are overhauling their operations to respond to the crisis but effective communication is key to carrying everyone along. The communications plan – as with many other ways of doing things – has to be flexible. It has to carefully consider whether its key messages to customers and employees align not only to the business but also to the good of a society effectively at war with a deadly virus.