Just because something is unprecedented doesn’t mean we should be ashamed of not truly understanding it. The COVID-19 emergency has rocked our society and economy, impacting every business in some way, shape or form.
For many of our clients, the working from home requirements have completely altered their communications landscape. Body language has been made less effective even in a video conference. All-staff calls lack the interaction of traditional team meetings and have left people feeling removed from their colleagues. Company websites and social channels have gone into over-drive and the customer email suddenly feels much more relevant again. People are turning to print media, but plummeting advertising revenues mean journalists are losing their jobs when many would argue we need them the most and, once again, broadcast across both television and radio is proving its unbeatable value. Social media channels continue to play an important role in helping people access up to date news, however, the potential closure of media titles means no one knows how long their favourite source of reputable reporting will survive.
However long this situation continues, and whatever we return to, how we communicate as businesses, brands and employers must change. The shrinking violet, faux humble, or overly conservative company that believes communication is a risk or unnecessary will only flounder in this new era of work. Those organisations that put communications at the heart of their business strategy will find themselves in the ascendency.
For customers and clients, the need for up to date information on your business and offering is crucial. Social channels are critical, but the new era will see sign-off procedures torn-up in favour of trust for key operatives. Production values will fall as pace and accuracy trump glitz and graphics. CEOs will need to be the first to Twitter to explain how their business is recovering in real time. A front foot approach will be required to quickly dismantle anything that looks like fake news or a potential damaging rumour that could impact reputation. And those regular sales emails will need to be junked in favour of pithy, short form content which adds value to someone’s day rather than encouraging them to spend more cash.
People will continue to turn to traditional media for their daily news fix. And the voice of experts will remain important. Companies looking to prove their credentials will no longer turn to outdated thought leadership surveys for cut-through and will instead offer up their expertise to journalists to help add accurate information and commentary to the news of the day.
The biggest leap will need to be on the employee communications front. As companies seek to re-hire, re-engage and ultimately re-build morale in their business, high quality communicators will be best placed to reach recovery fastest. As a percentage of their time, communications should become 50% of a senior leader’s day and the majority of that should be on engaging with their employees. Assuming we return to offices and facilities in a similar way to before then face-to-face will be crucial. CEOs will need to not just walk the floor but be omni-present amongst their colleagues. Email will be deemed too slow and messaging platforms will be essential for sharing up-to-date information and motivating each other. Emojis will take on a new significance as leaders attempt to convey sentiment and tone in the absence of the usual visual indicators. Remote working will still exist in some way so the video conference will remain essential throughout the day and to help people feel that essential connection with each other, even if they are still wearing sweatpants!
However, regardless of any platform or technology, one-to-one connection will prove crucial. We have been starved of that human connection and the intimacy of what used to be work. Leaders will need to start many relationships almost from scratch. Traditional communication methods like email will be rendered redundant. Traditional channels like media, social and the humble website will, of course still play a role, but we will also find ourselves picking up the phone a lot more and going to see that colleague at their desk (hopefully!).
Communication is at its best and its most effective when it is human and authentic. The standard by which we judge such efforts has just got a lot higher.