05 Mar Critical Role of Communications During the Coronavirus Crisis
How does one navigate the new reality we’re living in? Questions abound. This makes the role of communications even more critical nowadays. For example, how will the quarantine impact global mobility? Will assignees lose our jobs? How long do we have to work from home?
Crises like the coronavirus that has paralyzed the world will always need communicators with clear messages to impart.
Ultimately, all these questions can be distilled into the following concerns: will we be safe—physically, mentally, and financially—during and after the crisis? What do we need to do so that my family and I can survive this?
As a global mobility manager and a leader, you have to respond immediately, even if you don’t know all the answers. Not many of them expect you to, anyway. What they do want is a lifeline or a map that they can follow, bit by bit, day by day, to get through the crisis in one piece.
However, a strong, organized, and coherent communications campaign—and the team running it—might very well turn out to be the bridge where your confused, tired shareholders can cross over, from chaos and depression to order and calmness.
The first order of the day is to create a competent, clear-thinking, and proactive communications team. You cannot handle the messaging alone. The campaigns, emails, and social media postings and other forms of communications will need at least half a dozen knowledgeable and skilled professionals to launch and sustain it.
As emphasized by the Harvard Business Review, they will act as the centralized committee that will regularly monitor and update the situation. They are to be the organization’s official communication center, the primary source of information for all shareholders.
They can screen and authenticate or debunk other pieces of news brought to them by other parties. Because they will act as the authority of information dissemination, their ranks should be filled by leaders who your staff respect and regard as highly credible.
The following key figures must always be members of this committee: someone from management or the executive team; a corporate communications manager; a practitioner from human resources; and if possible, representatives from every department. This inclusive arrangement that considers every aspect of the organization will strengthen the trust that your shareholders must place on your team.
Next, be honest, transparent, and helpful to your shareholders. People panic and turn away from their leaders if they think they are not being told the full story. Worse, they become prey to rumors and fake news which make matters deteriorate even more. In cases of crises, state the truth calmly, without innuendo or exaggeration.
Do not make false promises that you cannot fulfill; otherwise, you risk emotional devastation and demoralization on a grand scale. You do have to prepare your shareholders for the harsh realities they are facing.
The sooner they can accept it, the sooner they would be in a better position to act in a realistic, productive manner.
At the same time, when it is possible, throw them a rock that they can cling to in a sea of turbulence; for example, if reduced hours and reduced payments are inevitable, then give them an estimated time period of that impending furlough.
If a talent contracts coronavirus, be honest with them about symptoms, possible ways to counter the condition, and the recovery rate. To stem the anxiety that surfaces during this time, as advised by The Conversation, support your message with research or information from subject-matter experts.
Finally, listen to your shareholders.
Effective communication is a two-way street. As advised by The Worldcom Public Relations Group, monitoring the situation includes listening to their experiences on the ground level. Get information on how the crisis is affecting them. Dig deep into their concerns. Find out what is really keeping them awake at night. Be empathic, and not dismissive, regardless of the hundred urgent things you are juggling.
Accurately responding to their concerns can empower them and bring them over to your side. As the employee-empowering tech hubs in San Francisco discovered, creating a win-win situation for your shareholders, especially during tough times, is already half of the battle won.