Confident, honest, continuous communication is critical during times of crisis. But strategic communications are just as important when your organization emerges from crisis management and begins to adapt to whatever comes next.
If you haven’t already, draw up plans to keep conversations flowing with both employees and customers through this new phase. To help, here are five ways to communicate effectively as you head into the “new normal.”
1. Keep messaging open and honest
Many industries are facing unprecedented challenges. When confidence is shaken, messaging needs to be clear, confident and above all, honest.
- Staff are looking to managers to lead them through uncertainty. Be as open as possible while assuring employees that you have a coherent plan in place — and make sure you do have one.
- Trust is paramount. Be honest with staff about tough decisions or steps that might need to be made moving forward.
- Clearly outline next steps so that people have an idea of what to expect and how it might affect them.
- Don’t dodge questions. Try to provide the critical information employees and clients want and need.
2. Find the right messenger
During a crisis, your chief executive is usually the best person to disseminate company news, strategy and information to employees. But as the situation starts to settle, it might be time for other staff to come forward.
- Identify the best representative for each site and department. Many people prefer day-to-day communications from their immediate team leaders, who understand the challenges and needs of their business area.
- Foster strong personal relationships, which can help people feel more comfortable asking questions so that they can better understand the implications of your company’s decisions.
- Continue including managers of all levels on important messaging points. Doing so requires coordination but helps to ensure that employees receive consistent communications.
3. Get personal with social media
To better connect with staff, get creative with communications. Add digital messaging to your communication strategy to better reach remote workers.
- Videos and visual messages generate the most response. Viewers can take clues from a speaker’s facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, helping to provide depth, context and increased trust.
- Target messaging towards a specific audience. Don’t neglect social media: Twitter, Facebook and messaging apps like Microsoft Teams.
- Consider using an online conferencing app such as Zoom or Cisco Webex to conduct town hall-style meetings for strategy discussions.
4. Be empathetic in employee communications
Picking the appropriate tone and cadence is key to effective messages. But tailoring communications to large numbers of people during difficult times can be a challenge. People are likely at different stages of emotional response and so will receive your message in different ways. However, you can typically identify and address each of those stages.
- In times of crisis, shock often hits first.
- Next, many experience fear (e.g., about job cuts, loss of benefits).
- People might become angry as their fears are realized or difficult changes are introduced.
- Apathy might settle in as people struggle to move forward.
Strong, well-targeted communication can help empower employees to play a role in problem-solving and adapting to a changed environment. Try to understand the emotional toll that times of crisis take. Make communications intuitive and empathetic. Instead of just focusing on corporate goals, create a sense of community for your staff and help them move forward.
5. Consider customer priorities
Investing in better communications with your customers can reap long-term rewards. Your clients are also struggling to overcome serious hurdles, so listen to their issues and be ready to help them solve their problems.
- Frequently communicate with customers to let them know how you can help them navigate current challenges. (But be aware that this isn’t the time for a hard sell.)
- Use digital channels if possible. Consider using video chats to give customers individualized attention.
- More than ever, people want answers—fast. Be responsive and don’t keep customers waiting.
- If you’re overwhelmed with enquiries, consider reallocating or retraining staff to help cope. Simple questions might be resolved through automated systems; explore artificial intelligence (e.g., chat functions) to boost response times.
Keep communications positive
As you plan the next phase of your communications strategy, keep in mind that both employees and customers are hungry for good news. Try to find positives to celebrate. For example, a new client or plans to target fresh markets can help reassure staff that your organization is focused on moving forward.
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