This article is the first in an eight-part series where we help organisation understand the importance of communicating in a post-COVID19 world. To keep up to date, follow Emma Bannister on LinkedIn.
The events that have taken place over the last couple of months have been completely unprecedented. The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies and societies, both domestic and abroad is still largely unknown. And while the initial shock seems to be over, our era will certainly be marked by an obvious schism – life before and after the Coronavirus.
The virus has been a catalyst of great change. Businesses undergo large scale changes all the time, however, rarely do all businesses go through these changes simultaneously. While the impact of this widespread shock is still uncertain, what remains clear is that if your organisation is waiting for business to ‘continue as usual’, you are going to be left behind. Businesses will never go back to “normal”, much like the world after the 2008 GFC, a new normal will need to re-emerge.
Aside from the obvious move to digital technology, we will leave the theories of what that the new future will look like to palm-readers and speculative investors. Our expertise lies in understanding and demonstrating the importance communication has in helping organisations remaining resilient when faced with uncertainty. In moments of unclear transition employees, suppliers and customers are all looking for the same thing – assurance. They need to know how the business they work for; they buy from or they supply too are handling the shift and how these changes will affect them.
Developing considered and strategic communication mechanisms during times like this, is paramount for maintaining your brand and establishing trust with your most important stakeholders. Bill Gates said: “Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communications mechanism, a “nervous system”, to coordinate its actions.” Whatever the new normal may be, ensuring your internal and external stakeholders trust you will guarantee that you reach the other side.
For over a decade, Presentation Studio has helped organisations communicate more effectively across multiple changes in technology – the rise of mobile, social media and cloud-based services. We also supported multiple organisations throughout the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
Over the years the channels and technology through which we communicate has changed, but the core principles of empathy, storytelling and strategic thinking haven’t. In fact, in a socially isolated world, they are becoming more crucial than ever before.
We have identified three phases every organisation will journey as they respond to the events of this global pandemic. And in each phase, strategic communications play an important role.
Addressing Immediate Challenges
This first phase is dedicated to addressing the pressing challenges that pose the greatest threat to business continuity in the short-term. This involves making hard, informed decisions about process, technology, partner organisations and employees. Whether it is discussing the job security of employees or renegotiating terms with suppliers, you need to ensure that your messages to key stakeholders are honest and clear. From video conferencing etiquette to hosting digital town halls, a strategic approach to communication can ensure you don’t risk unnecessary damage to your brand or company culture.
Preparing for the New Normal
The main goal of the second phase is the creation of a specific plan to return the business back to scale, as quickly as possible. This involves evaluating what internal processes need to change or stay the same. Webinars and branded training content tools are helpful in establishing how you effectively and efficiently retrain employees in new ways of working. This phase also involves taking advantage of cheaper advertising opportunities to help develop market share for the future and understanding how content like short animated explainer videos can introduce your company to new markets or your target market in a new way.
Establish New Direction
This final phase is where an organisation spends the time reimagining the “next normal” and considering how they might respond to pending shifts in the regulatory or competitive environment. This is where the importance of storytelling can help an organisation communicate its refreshed brand identity in the new normal and ensuring it establishes trust and brings its employees and customers along for the journey. Here a strategic approach is necessary to ensure that a consistent message is delivered to both internal and external audiences.
Over the next couple of weeks we are going to unpack these three areas in more depth and discuss how taking a strategic and measured approach to your communication efforts is necessary for building trust with your key stakeholders and navigating the new normal of a post-COVID19 world. While the future of your organisation may seem unclear, knowing your employees and your customers trust you to weather this storm can give you the confidence to take the best steps forward.