Corporate communications

5 ways to keep up the communication during COVID-19

April 2020 8 min read Written by Papirfly

In a short window of time, the Coronavirus pandemic has altered the landscape for businesses throughout the globe. This is particularly evident in how communication has changed for companies, both in relation to their teams internally and to their customers worldwide.

Many employees now find themselves siloed from their typical office environments and working from home when they otherwise wouldn’t be. In the UK alone, the ONS estimates that only 8.7 million of the population have worked from home in any capacity before (less than 30% of the workforce), while just 1.7 million say they work from home regularly.

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With millions now required to set up their home offices, kitchen tables, bedrooms and any other space they can find for home working, communication during COVID-19 would surely take a big hit, right?

Not necessarily. As the need for brands to stay connected with employees and customers is greater than ever, it’s vital that organisations view this as an opportunity to adapt and enhance in order to develop the best communication strategies possible, in a bid to maintain efficiency, keep in the public eye, and ensure everyone is focused on the tasks at hand.

With this in mind, we’ve provided 5 suggestions for how brands can rise to these challenging circumstances and maintain strong communication during COVID-19, and how this could support better practice in a post-pandemic environment.

But first…

Why is it important to keep up communication during COVID-19?

For many, there has been a stark difference in life before Coronavirus and life after it. Of course, many businesses have been impacted financially by these sweeping changes, and many have turned to cutting their communications budgets as a means to save costs in this unpredictable environment.

But, this could have critical consequences that extend far beyond the current pandemic. During this time of massive upheaval, people want to know that businesses and brands have their back. Communication within teams and towards customers goes a long way to providing this reassurance in these tough situations, even if it is just providing them with a semblance of life as they knew it prior to the outbreak.

Failure to keep up corporate communications might save costs in the short-term, but quickly erode away the trust of your employees and the loyalty you’ve strived to build among your audience, as they may feel abandoned or left out of the loop at a time where they need information more than ever. Indeed, research has demonstrated that more people were opening email in the wake of this pandemic than in recent memory, illustrating the importance of maintaining engagement.

As our upcoming 5 suggestions highlight, communication will need to change during COVID-19 to meet the delicate landscape the world now finds itself in. But, there is no question that staying invested in these strategies is essential for sustaining long-term brand loyalty and supporting your customers, employees and other key audiences when they need it most – in time, we believe this will pay dividends for organisations who adapted and invested to meet demands.

Now, let’s move onto our 5 tips for upholding customer and team communications in the current landscape.

1. Keep conversations up with your teams and your customers

It should go without saying that your communications engine needs to be running at full steam right now. Both employees and customers will expect clear, transparent communication at this time from brands. In fact, 75% of consumers say they want brands to inform them of how they’re handling this situation.

As noted earlier, when it comes to communicating during COVID-19, this is not the time to shut down or even slow down. But what can you implement to support this? Internally, introducing or utilising communication tools such as Slack will allow you to communicate in teams from one manageable location.

Plus, consider creating a dedicated channel for official Coronavirus-related news and updates - this can prevent hearsay and rumours at a time where misinformation is all the rage. You can keep all official documentation for employees in the educate section of your BAM portal.

For video conferencing, applications like Zoom or Microsoft Teams can also help bring the team together even when they’re miles apart. Use these to keep everyone engaged with jobs and goals for the day, so nobody is left out of the loop. And, as these become more utilised to manage this crisis, the onus will be on the developers of these tools to make them even more user-friendly and effective over time.

Externally, make sure any communications with your audience are authentic and sensitive to the situation we all find ourselves in right now. Communication during COVID-19 is all about empathy, whether that is providing up-to-date and sensitive company updates to your global teams in these ever-changing times, or highlighting relief efforts or the various ways you’re helping your customers specifically in difficult circumstances.

Remember, while only a small percentage of consumers want advertising to stop in the face of this pandemic, an overwhelming majority don’t want brands to exploit this environment in the hopes of scoring a quick buck.

Instead, hold a discussion between those responsible for your communications and key executives to determine the balance between your brand values and the situation at hand. Knowing how your brand fits into these circumstances, choosing the right channels and being thoughtful about your tone of voice will be vital to keeping customers informed and aligned to your brand both now and beyond this crisis.

2. Keep everything centralised and accessible

For organisations with locations in every corner of the globe, having a central repository for all branded assets, guidelines and key documents is already a valuable tool. Now, even for domestically-based businesses, these are more important than ever. 

As employees are spread further apart than ever before and in anticipation of how communication has changed and will continue to do so, it would be a good time for organisations to utilise the Store & Share ‘DAM’ section of their portal. This continues to provide mammoth savings over the expense of hard drives and servers with limited space available.

You can store the infinite assortment of marketing materials that have been created in one accessible location, and then share them out to teams throughout the organisation, with the ability to set permissions over who can access what. Plus, as our portal only requires a link for users, teams are able to use this while they work from home.

In addition, right now people will be hyper-sensitive to content that is going out on social channels. You don’t want to encounter a situation as Asos did over their chainmail face masks. For external communications, it’s vital to stay vigilant over the content your company is putting out, as an ill-timed message might carry more negative weight for your brand than usual right now.

To combat this, perhaps now is an ideal time to introduce approval workflows for any content that goes out online, if you haven’t already got this implemented in your BAM portal, speak to your client success manager about how you can get this set up.

3. Keep on top of your crisis communication strategy

Right now, employees want to know what employers have to say about COVID-19. According to Digital Marketing Magazine, out of 836 posts shared about Coronavirus on SocialChorus in the past 30 days, these generated over 4 million impressions. It feels like employees are listening to their employers more intently than ever, so now is the time to ensure your crisis communications strategy is working as effectively as possible.

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To achieve this, consider the following: 

  • Form a dedicated team for the management of crisis communications, ensuring these are produced and delivered in a timely fashion - this should also incorporate someone at an executive level to ensure all messages fit in with company values
  • Determine the channels that are most likely to reach your dedicated audiences and post any crisis messaging to all of them
  • Explore ways to organise and schedule your crisis communications for your audiences in various parts of the world, taking into account language and cultural differences in your content
  • Be sympathetic to the situations of employees and customers by offering them advice and guidance that will provide some degree of reassurance or comfort, even in the hard times we’re experiencing right now
  • Track the engagement and responses to these communications - this will inform you on whether you’re meeting the expectations of your audience and areas that you can improve, be it the timeliness of your messaging, tone of voice, or other elements

4. Keep communications personalised

COVID-19 is affecting people the world over right now, and the best communications during this period will keep in mind the various nuances we’re witnessing from country-to-country. Every territory is managing these circumstances in their own way, so it is vital your messaging doesn’t take a universal approach.

Now, creating and distributing personalised communications for your employees and customers in various areas – on the surface – appears a time-consuming and costly task. And manually speaking, it would be. But, through your brand activation management tool, the ability to adapt and customise content for your specific audiences across the globe becomes much more doable and efficient.

Through this portal, you can take into consideration cultural and language differences to ensure that during COVID-19 your communications stay personal for your audiences.

Also, to further ensure you have a firm understanding of the situations present across the globe at this delicate time, consider arranging regular video meetings with a representative from each of your territories. They should be able to offer a clearer understanding of where things are at a local level, allowing you to adjust communications delivered to your employees and customers in that area accordingly.

5. Keep showing your audiences you care

Finally, with the world feeling as though it’s in short-term turmoil as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, brands should be communicating the ways they are looking out for the people that matter most to them at this time - their employees and their customers.

Of course, this can’t be fabricated or ingenuous – especially in this heightened sense of awareness, employees and consumers will see past any attempts to use these circumstances as a money-making exercise. Your communications during COVID-19 should always prioritise empathy, information and authenticity.

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Instead, consider Nike’s example: by adjusting their communications to focus on helping people stay fit and active indoors, which stays true to their core values as a global organisation, they look set to be a brand that will come out of this difficult situation stronger and more engaged with their audience than ever before.

Another example is JetBlue, the first airline to waive both flight changes and cancellation fees for prospective passengers affected by COVID-19. Where possible, brands should look to support the pain points their customers will undoubtedly be facing in these circumstances, and sharing valuable content to serve these.

Internally, try to turn around the potential malaise among your employees by sharing useful information about staying fit and protecting their mental wellbeing. Organise online social gatherings where possible to help people connect worldwide, or a Whatsapp group to share positive company news. Who knows – being forced apart might be the key to making the communication in your teams stronger than ever before?

And, I think it goes without saying, don’t pull a Sports Direct

Step up your communications during COVID-19

Hopefully you’ll find these suggestions useful in helping you maintain communication during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. It feels like it’s a time of transition for everyone right now, and we believe passionately that those who take on this challenge and use it as a springboard for improving this essential element of their organisation will come out of the other side of this situation in a stronger position.

If you’re working from home and still finding your feet with your new routine, we’d love to keep this conversation going at a later date. To learn more about how we can support your ability to communicate with employees, customers and others the world over, contact us today for a friendly chat.

by Papirfly

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