The most fundamental thing for any communicator is to have planned for the worst that may happen. I read the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) new document on Communicating in a crisis published today (Monday 21 February) with interest. What is clear from all of the examples is that understanding your brand and being prepared is critical to be effective.
Organisations and businesses all have their own story about how the past two years have been and what Covid-19 has meant to them. Communication has played a key role and I hope leaders have seen the benefits effective communication can bring. The challenge now is to learn and move forward from what we have been through. We need to continue to make the connection to the frontline of the businesses we are working with.
It is interesting to see this report published on the day when the Government is set to announce the ‘living with Covid’ plan. I am increasingly concerned that England is going to go from crisis to business as usual without any planning or consideration. In the same way that planning is critical to being ready for the start of a crisis, it has a key role to play in moving to recovery and beyond. The same is true for the communication.
Many communicators will want to go ‘back to normal’ quickly and to return to focus on the work that was the priority back in early 2020 before the pandemic hit. But we need to learn from what we have been through, look at how we can improve, and take the opportunities that lie ahead. In these uncertain times managing risk and being ready for crises should be part of the daily business for all communicators.
There are many easy ways to become more alert to what may happen in the future and how things may impact on the business. Talking about these measures is a priority for me at the moment. I really hope that we don’t feel we have ‘done crisis communication’ as we move forward. If the past two years has taught us anything it is that those things on the risk register really can and sometimes do happen.
A huge well done to those who have featured in the CIPR report and those who have done amazing work that may not have been recognised. My three tips for this critical moment are:
- Ensure that you remain crisis ready by understanding the risks and aiming to mitigate or manage them.
- Going ‘back to normal’ will miss the opportunities to do things better
- Recognise the tough times people have had and don’t seek to downplay them
We are at a crossroads for communication. There is the opportunity to firmly put it at the top table in a strategic advisory role building on the impact we have had through Covid-19. But this is only possible if we keep demonstrating the direct benefits communication brings to the business.