Crisis Communications During COVID

**Guest Blog from Ramya Ranganath, content marketing &social media at Groupe.io **

The world has been in the grip of the coronavirus outbreak for a while now. While many countries have managed to contain the spread through stringent social distancing and other safety measures, many others are still fighting the battle against this invisible adversary.

The pandemic seemed distant for me until a while ago. The area where I live in seemed mostly unscathed by the pandemic. However, a month ago cases started popping up in various parts of my town, and just recently there was a case in the adjoining neighbourhood to where I stay.

It is difficult to empathize with an issue unless we have had some experience of it ourselves. As long as the situation seemed a distant possibility, I didn’t bat and eye, and just went about my day to day life with social distancing, masks and sanitizers as add-ons. However, once the threat started rearing its head in the vicinity, a plethora of questions started to plague my mind. The biggest question was – how long was this going to go on for and what additional precautions should I take?

The COVID outbreak is having a significant impact on businesses across the globe. Leaders are confronting a situation of uncertainty about their next course of action. To add to this, businesses are on tenterhooks about how to communicate with their workers, stakeholders and customers, as information has to be accurate and actionable to say the least.

In the process of creating a crisis communication strategy for COVID, businesses have to address the needs of employees, customers and stakeholders. Another proliferating entity at the moment is abundant Fake News! Therefore, leaders should keep the following aspects in mind while devising crisis communications during these stressful times:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Empathy
  3. Transparency
  4. Frequency
  5. Reach
  6. Feedback

All messages sent out during these times should be factually accurate, should empathize with people and should display a fair amount of transparency. Moreover, frequent communication is a must in order to pacify people who are already feeling distressed in more ways than one. Uncertainty breeds fear, and comms should attempt to mitigate this fear that might be amplifying as the situation continues to get worse.

To cite an instance, the HR team at my workplace have been extremely active with respect to communicating with employees both frequently and succinctly. Messages regarding protocol and policies that have been created to combat the crisis are being sent out on a weekly basis. Details regarding remote working timelines and policies were communicated directly by the leadership of the company. The comms teams have also been engaging us through virtual contests and interactions. We also have had a couple of all hands meetings so far. All these initiatives have pacified us and have made us feel taken care of. Therefore, coping with this sudden and unexpected crisis of a rather intense magnitude has been seamless for me and my co-workers.

It is important that messages reach everybody within the organization, and if this means using multiple channels (email, company intranet, employee app, etc.) to communicate, so be it. Getting notified when messages are read and allowing for feedback and two way communications is an important factor in building trust during these bleak times. At my workplace, since the organization has a large number of knowledge workers, the communication is mostly through email and instant messaging platforms. There also is a company intranet called Loop through which a lot of real-time, companywide and group specific posts and messages are sent out on a regular basis.

Every business will benefit from forming a dedicated team to tackle crisis communications during coronavirus. This team should be the single source of information during the crisis, and should bear the responsibility of putting out regular, verified, transparent and crisp messages that reach all teams and workers in the company.

Employees are the backbone of any business. The role of the crisis team will be to induce a sense of calm and hope within the minds of the employees, a rather arduous task given the current state of affairs.

Customers and stakeholders are equally important. Communicating regularly with customers could be a challenge since the number of dedicated channels of communication, like intranets and apps, are off the radar. However, the need of the hour is to focus on more endearing messages as opposed to promotional messages, keeping in line with the present circumstances. The best practice would be to speak immediately, often and directly with your existing set of customers.

The on-going pandemic has created considerable fiscal volatility and uncertainty world over. Businesses, therefore, need to keep channels of communication open with stakeholders. Being upfront and succinct while sharing how they are tackling the current issue and an estimation of how things might unfurl will bode well for a business once the crisis abates.

To sum things up, the coronavirus pandemic is like nothing the world has witnessed in a long time. However, we can use this time for introspection and contemplate on the things that really matter. We should also use this to plan our next course of action once things get back to ‘normal.’

About Ramya

Ramya is the part of the marketing team at Groupe.io based in India and primarily works on content marketing and social media. She has been working on end-to-end content with various publications and organizations for almost 10 years. In her spare time, she is an advocate for new and non-polluting technologies for energy generation. Groupe.io is an employee communication app that connects knowledge, frontline, deskless and remote workers.

This entry was posted in communication, Covid-19, crisis communication, internal communication, PR and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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