Communicating through Coronavirus – 6 lessons for the future

The way we’ve communicated and what we’ve communicated during the coronavirus sums up who we are and what we stand for. So, what are communications takeaways from coronavirus that we can take forward into new norm. Here’s six for starters based on our advice to our clients.

1. Be clear, transparent and factual in your communications

No mixed messages, no jargon, no speculation – that’s because human nature is: what people don’t get, they don’t trust. Even at the best of times, communications don’t always hit the mark.

So, it’s important to remember that employees’ ability to take in and grasp what has been said will be less when they are feeling distressed. Be transparent, explain what you know, don’t know rather than radio silence. Focus on facts and not conjecture.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate

You can’t communicate enough in the unprecedented circumstances we’ve all been facing up to and stakeholders expect it otherwise they perceive it as a lack of leadership and creates further uncertainty. Communicate early and often. Be open to questions and always feedback.

3. Demonstrate your purpose and values through your communications

That’s because what we communicate and how we communicate reflects our culture. Key has been putting the welfare of people – colleagues and customers – first and foremost – it’s been vital reputationally that organisations have showed a duty of care. Those that haven’t will have tarnished reputations going forwards. Purpose has meant:

  • showing a strong awareness of and empathy towards how the coronavirus has affected your staff, put yourself in their shoes remembering this is more than just about the virus but also employment uncertainty, ability to pay the bills or family bereavement
  • showing a strong appreciation for staff for the work they have done
  • the extra miles you’ve gone to protect your customer
  • the support you’ve given to local communities and the NHS.

Communicating purpose through the media can also help to mitigate against any accusations of being opportunistic. It presents a genuine and authentic way to generate positive PR.

Not surprisingly research has shown that brands that have taken positive steps towards the fight against the virus or protected their workers’ jobs, have seen the biggest increases in positive sentiment reflecting the importance of brand purpose to customers.

4. Demonstrate strong leadership

It’s critical to hear the voice of the leader. People pay even more attention to what leaders say, how they say it and what they really do mean during uncertain times. Displaying emotional intelligence is also key. Warmth, compassion and accessibility can make a bitter pill a little easier to swallow. Short video clips and regular Q&As have worked extremely well for leaders during the last few weeks

5. Humanise the brand

Showing you care a damn, highlighting how the business is leading by example and bringing to life how your teams are working hard to support key workers, keep the nation fed or assisting their local communities – these have been key ways to humanise the brand during the current crisis. Many companies, for example, have taken the outside world behind the scenes of their organisations, highlighting what it means to their people to be involved in the national effort in the fight against the virus. Creating videos of behind the scenes operations have worked extremely well as have those featuring leaders addressing external audiences about the state of play in their organisations and the implications for their stakeholders.

6. Lead, not sell

This has meant offering advice and support to stakeholders which is valuable and reassuring rather than overtly promotional. COVID-19 has really highlighted the value and power of PR in the comms mix. Research by Kantar reveals that customers claim that they want companies to help them provide advice – for example around keeping fit and healthy at home. Many of the management consultancies and lawyers have led the way in the B2B world – McKinsey, EY and PwC, for example, have all been sharing their wisdom.

Please download our Reboot Your Business communications guide and attend our Re-Boot Camps involving livestreamed interviews with experts and thought leaders from the worlds of communications, property, the media, digital business and mental wellbeing. 

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