Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken the world by storm, forcing companies and their employees to reimagine business and communications strategies right in the midst of a global crisis. The word “crisis” stems from the Greek word “krisis,” which fittingly means “turning point in a disease.” What started as a global health pandemic has simultaneously created an economic panic-demic, thanks to misinformed, misaligned government leadership and round-the-clock over-reporting by the media.
Many brands have been proactive since the start of the virus, pushing out direct customer communications on how they’re keeping employees and customers safe. Smarter brands have re-deployed business resources to help those in need. As companies now face the harsh reality of communicating business continuity plans to internal audiences (mainly employees), it won’t be long before cost containment measures and workforce reductions are activated.
In a world turned upside down, communications is one area of business companies can maintain control of during a crisis. Here are three pieces of advice to consider:
Embrace Radical Transparency.
A hard truth today is better than a surprise tomorrow. By now brands should have already warned employees to brace for impact. Be transparent in explaining the actual calculus being used to determine which measures to employ to safeguard the business and staff. People want the “why” just as much as the “what.” This is a very non-traditional approach as typically companies do not reveal how the sausage is made. You can do so by explaining how your business operates and the snowball effect on revenue and costs. Employees don’t always think of these factors daily — now’s the time when they need to start.
Also ask for forgiveness now knowing some actions will work while others won’t. COVID-19 is new to everyone and the situation is changing constantly. That said, exercise agility and prepare for all contingencies. Remember everything you say or do will be leaked and shared publicly. Saying “no comment” allows others to comment for you, leading to misinformation, rumor and speculation.
Unleash Your Values.
Now’s the time for companies to live out the “values” hanging on their office walls or in HR onboarding packets. In times of social distancing, vote for optimism over negativity, empathy over apathy, grit over surrender and collaboration over isolation. This too can be contagious and benefit your bottom line in the long run.
It’s easy in times of uncertainty to get caught up in the now. Understand your point of arrival and don’t lose sight of the long-term. Remain calm while navigating the tensions between your heart and your head. Make decisions in advance to maintain the continuum of trust. When the storm passes and the sun begins to shine again, employees and customers will remember how you handled or mishandled this crisis and they will respond accordingly.
KWT Global is working one on one with companies to manage these expectations while also providing pro bono support to nonprofits to address these challenges in the wake of COVID-19.
If you are reading this and think you could use an extra set of eyes (or hands), don’t hesitate to reach out. Our Special Situations team has deep experience supporting clients navigating all types of threats and/or vulnerabilities to their business. Our team is available 24/7 to provide:
- Always-on counsel: Our team is available 24/7 to craft business communications strategies and determine tactics to execute
- War room execution: We set up virtual war rooms with key leadership to prioritize, strategize and determine appropriate methods of execution
- Scenario planning: We help to consider all possible scenarios that could negatively impact your business
- Industry research: We mine and synthesize industry, trade and analyst reports, whitepapers and research to position you ahead of the curve
- Stakeholder materials: We carefully develop tailored stakeholder communications for internal and external audiences
- Media monitoring: We keep close tabs on what the media is saying about the situation, our clients, and their peers to keep you informed
- Social media community management: We guide your social media strategy and develop content for channels including LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and more
For more information on how we can help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele Mendelson is an Account Director at KWT Global and co-leads the agency’s Special Situations Group. Connect with her on LinkedIn.