During this global crisis, companies around the world are facing unprecedented challenges every day. Health threats. Travel bans. Safety concerns. Financial instability. Disruption to operations. Misinformation. Stay-at-home orders. Remote work. New technology. Workforce re-entry. Just to name a few.
As leaders and communicators, it’s our responsibility to use strategic communication to support the business, promote and protect the company’s reputation and drive the company’s values and culture. As we work quickly to translate what COVID-19 means for our businesses and key stakeholders, particularly employees, effective organizational communication is more important now than ever before.
Here are six ways you can use communication to help drive business alignment, reinforce your commitment to stakeholders and rally employees around the company’s vision for the future as you lead during COVID-19.
- Start with values and purpose COVID-19 represents an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s corporate character by making decisions that align with your values and purpose. The decisions you make today—from how you take care of your employees, to how you support those in your communities, to what actions you take in the global fight against this pandemic—will have a lasting impression on your company’s reputation for years to come. Consider creating a set of guidelines that helps the business make decisions through the lens of your purpose and values.
- Provide clarity and information In the midst of so much uncertainty, employees are looking to their companies to be a single source of truth and to help distill the 24/7 news coverage. Companies can cut through the noise by delivering messages that are clear, direct and succinct. Use data to set context for decisions and to show how you are making an impact. Create infographics, fact sheets and visual communications to simplify and reinforce complex information. Address misinformation directly and be transparent about what you know, what you don’t know and when you’ll know more.
- Demonstrate empathy and active listening It’s moments like these that we need to remember we are all in this together. Both companies and leaders can do this by demonstrating empathy and authenticity in their words and actions. Speak from the heart and make sure company messages and leader talking points reflect a personal tone. These messages should also recognize the top concerns on employee’s minds. Listen and learn from employees by creating opportunities to engage in dialogue, share ideas and ask questions through online communities, pulse surveys and focus groups. While you may not be able to address them all, acknowledging what employees are going through helps to build mutual understanding and trust.
- Make information accessibleWhether your employees are working from home or providing essential work to support your customers and society, it’s important to make information easily accessible to all employees by reaching them where, when and how it’s best for them. By creating an internal microsite to be a one-stop shop for all things related to COVID-19 and establishing an integrated crisis communication strategy, you can convey important information using a mix of channels, including digital, physical and face to face/virtual options. Create a regular communication cadence that includes daily updates across channels to provide the latest news and maximize your impact. Translate materials in local languages whenever possible.
- Share compelling stories Despite the challenges, everyday heroes have emerged from this crisis. There are countless examples within every organization of employees stepping up to support customers, partners, communities and most importantly, each other. Storytelling helps to humanize the experience and create emotional connections. Capture examples and create a storytelling series that celebrates the efforts of individuals and teams. Ask employees to share their personal stories on social media using a unique hashtag. Encourage leaders to recognize examples of good work happening across the company and share personal messages that show appreciation and gratitude for colleagues.
- Inspire people to think boldly about the future How we respond to the crisis today will shape what our companies look like tomorrow. Despite these difficult times, COVID-19 creates a unique opportunity to learn from this experience and help your company change for the better. Begin to lay a foundation for what’s to come by developing a strategic narrative that re-imagines the future, sparks innovation and inspires optimism.
When the worst is over, the companies who navigate the global pandemic well will connect employees’ minds, engage their hearts and motivate them to take action in response to the crisis – coming out stronger than ever before.
To learn more about how you can create effective organizational communication, check out Gagen MacDonald’s white paper “The Path to Thriving in a Post-Pandemic World”.