Communicate during the time of the coronavirus

Seven tips for business leaders

The global COVID-19 pandemic is taking us out of our comfort zone and forcing us to measure our words and actions. Business leaders know how essential communication is under such circumstances.

After offering a first guide to address communications and public relations during a pandemic in this blog post, here are seven more specific recommendations.

1) Show empathy. The risks to human health are real. It goes without saying that you must primarily be interested in people and their personal situation. Companies that are empathetic will be rewarded by their audiences. A concrete example: one of our clients, Fondaction, announced last Friday that it was giving its clients a three-month break in the payment of their loans.

2) Track, listen and measure. The situation is changing rapidly. It is important that you follow developments closely and stay aligned with your stakeholders and their reality. Do not hesitate to ask your employees, suppliers and customers what concerns them. Many of you will not be able to physically meet your contacts. So don’t hesitate to pick up the phone! Also, monitor social media conversations and look for the most popular topics to predict the reaction of your audiences. Personally, I want to see the blows coming. I imagine that this is the case for all business leaders.

3) Communicate regularly and with clarity. Your decisions must be clearly communicated, without ambiguity. Communicate frequently, especially as the situation evolves. Your decisions may change accordingly. Choose a tone that lends itself to the gravity of the situation, without being alarmist. Beware, however, of information overload or unclear content. It’s better to communicate little and often than rarely and a lot. The last thing the world needs right now is confusion. Also, internally, in parallel with your crisis unit, set up two-way channels and call on the collective intelligence of your teams to generate ideas.

4) Be consistent. The forms and types of communication channels are also crucial. At this stage of the crisis, they must be reliable, constant and without artifice so that the message gets through. Regular emails from organizations and the daily press briefings from the Premier of Quebec are good examples. You will soon have to think about varying the forms of communication, but let’s do it one day at a time.

5) Train and inform your teams and their leaders. The new procedures you are implementing must be fully understood by all your troops before they can be adopted. Are your managers sufficiently informed and trained to ensure their rapid implementation? We cannot cut back on training and coaching in this period of uncertainty.

6) Offer help. Some organizations are able to offer help. For example, the media, such as The New York Times or La Presse, have set up daily newsletters on COVID-19. Also, broadcasters, such as Télé-Québec, offer television programs adapted for children. At CASACOM, we volunteer to help charities during this critical time for them. And you, what can you do?

7) Finally, I beg you, do not take advantage of the crisis. We must avoid taking advantage of or appearing to take advantage of the crisis. Use caution if the temptation to generate revenue on the back of the pandemic or its victims arises. If you are a Zoom (videoconferencing solutions company) of this world, your business will benefit enormously from the crisis. Take the example of its CEO who, even in this profitable period for his business, has shown humility so far.

Finally, as you know so well, there are opportunities in every crisis. At this point, leaders have the opportunity to rise above and show their humanity. Your audiences will remember it.


Marie-Josée Gagnon About the author
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