Communication has always been at the root of all solutions. More so, during the Coronavirus crisis, Corporate Communications managers have an extremely vital role to play. As the organizations are looking up for strong and steady communications leadership- it is critical that your Corporate Communications Department helps address imminent concerns regarding safety and survival, work on stabilizing the business in the short term, and helping position it for future recovery.
The spread of novel coronavirus is not just a world-wide humanitarian and economic crisis, the events are unprecedented, with large-scale block quarantines, border closings, widespread lockdowns, and social distancing.
As everyone is looking at action points to “flatten the curve”, organizations have also braced themselves into concrete steps to protect employees, customers, suppliers, and bottom lines. With some companies losing up to 75% of their revenues in a single quarter and digital connectivity playing a fundamental role in continuity, even survival, of business operations.
As work from home becomes a global reality due to the coronavirus crisis, the need for frequent, transparent, and more engaging communications with internal and external customers has become paramount.
With conditions changing daily, if not hourly, the uncertainty about the future has made the role of the Corporate Communications Department (CCD) extremely vital for survival in the long term. The Public Relations Officer, or PRO for short, is the leader, after all, who most directly contributes to the intellectual capital of the company, the true strength of any organization.
Employees, investors, as well as all the contributors in the growth of the company in conducive times, must be kept closer now more than ever. Our experience in helping clients through both internal and external crises offers valuable actionable insights about the actions; PROs should take in the wake of the pandemic to put their companies on a sound footing and help reduce some of the fear and uncertainty.
Rewriting the communications code of conduct
Our in-house research team has reviewed a lot of case studies and the one thing that has come up on top is that the companies with strong communication fundamentals outperformed their competitors while coming out of previous crises –humanitarian, economic as well as socio-political.
While the present pandemic has been unprecedented and an entirely new rule book is being formed- with a new genre of communications being the new normal. Here are some points to ponder for communications during the Coronavirus Crisis –
Persistence and perseverance- How to address the imminent crisis
Companies have had to close their doors, albeit temporarily as the COVID-19 spread – leaving them under severe liquidity crunch and financial distress. As consumers are unable to make discretionary purchases, the communications team’s top responsibility is to straighten the messages going out. Now is not the time to hide behind the desks and cabins, but to roll up your sleeves and sit down with the marketing team and chalk out an action plan. Transparency in conveying the customers about your constraints in a tone that is emphatic yet sympathetic should be the core action plan.
PROs can develop different scenarios based on the situations and potential paths of the spread, and roll out an internal as well as external communications plan.
A crisis is the most suitable time to bring out the leadership mettle. A leader who can be seen as standing with his team and managing the various challenges leading from the front would be perceived as strong, committed, and successful in all circumstances- even when the tides turn back in your favour! Bring out the small success stories and random acts of kindness as well as grit and determination of your team. From the office staff that is managing calls from home to finance team tapping into whatever available resources, your internal and external customers, as well as investors, would like to know how your team is facing the obstacles head-on.
All the teams of your company- finance, marketing, operations, and strategy, would need to rely on a range of scenario frameworks rather than individual KRAs. As different leaders present their point of view about two or maybe more scenario frameworks with multiple eventualities, it’s the role of the communications manager to come up with a uniform outlook that can include all concerns expressed as well as help articulate clear thresholds or trigger points or alternative action plans.
A well-networked professional PR company can bring the much needed unbiased approach to your communications strategy. Public relations firms that are experienced in crisis management have their ears to the ground as well as help cultivate excellent media relations to boost its reach and potential- reducing PROs’ concern of reaching the right platform at the right time to a considerable extent.
The goal should be to focus on the crisis’s actual and projected effects on the company, the actions being taken to protect the business interests and any changes to earlier earnings commitments.
Communication has always been the key to resolve any tricky situation, and the current situation is no different from the same. Connections with investors, suppliers, employees, as well as customers, are essential to demonstrate that the leadership is taking fast and resolute action based on their best understanding of the situation as well as their efforts.
A strategic communications plan worked out with the help of your public relations expert will help set a formal chain of command as well as priorities throughout the organization as well as act as a reinforcement of the leadership communiqué for all departments and business units to understand “why this matters now” and what is their specific role.
In order to be termed “Resilients” upon the return post this crisis, a strong communications strategy is the way forward.
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About the author:
Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.