How to Communicate Through the Coronavirus Crisis? [Top Leadership Tips]
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It is during trying times like these that good leaders emerge as great. In light of the recent coronavirus pandemic, the leaders in organizations have found themselves laden with added responsibilities to keep the employees safe yet effective.
The key to ensuring that a leader meets these responsibilities is strong communication. This communication needs to be more focused, proactive, and valuable.
The massive scale of the outbreak and the unpredictability of the virus adds to the challenge as leaders are dealing with a crisis that impacts their personal well-being, the well-being of their employees and of their organization.
Let’s take a look at the top communication tips for leaders as they are wading through this unforeseen and unpredictable coronavirus crisis.
- Create a specialized communication team
Under ordinary circumstances, it is only natural that decentralized communication works, even preferred by the leadership. However, the circumstances today are far from ordinary. It is a crisis, an emergency and a fast-moving situation, to say the least. In this situation, it is important that a specialized crisis-response team is put together.
The leaders of every community are establishing specialized teams for communication and response to this raging pandemic that is enveloping the entire world right now.
The political leadership, school districts, universities, and even organizations of different niche and size are doing this at varying scales.
Here are a few points to keep in mind while setting this special team up:
- This team need not to be very big
- It should include at least one member from leadership, one from the communication team, one from HR, and at least one expert in the field
The team must connect regularly to evaluate and monitor the situation as it is developing. The intent and purpose of the team is as follows:
- Assume the position of the primary information source regarding the pandemic
- Provide updates to the key stakeholders
- Assume transparency and clarity in explaining what the team knows, and what they do not, including the sources of information
- Offer crisp and clear messages and create email templates without unnecessary medical or legal messages from health professionals or lawyers involved
Keep communication lines open with employees
This is one of the most important part of the communication responsibilities you have as a leader in any organization. It is important to find the right balance. It is common to see leaders making light of a pandemic in the initial phases which can appear frivolous and raises doubts about how informed the leader actually is. In contrast, many leaders are known to wait too long to say anything in times of crisies. This further leads to an unrest and is hardly reassuring.
Transparency in communication is extremely important, particularly when there is a pandemic that is stressing everyone in the organization. Be clear about how much you know and how much you don’t. The specialized communication team that you have set up should address each query that comes their way and you, as a leader must be open to receive any concern, query or suggestion from your employees.
Here are some tips to communicate effectively with your employees during the coronavirus crisis.
- Put up information regularly in a highly visible spot, even if it is a digital space
- Explain the thought and process behind decisions you are taking (work from home, travel restrictions, hygiene issues, and more)
- Offer information in time, as much as you have, instead of waiting to have all the answers
Recently I put together a post that gives you great tips on how to keep your employees calm during the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea is to communicate clearly, with reliable information and do so ethically and with conviction.
Frequent and valuable communication with clients
This is particularly important when you have B2B clients and are trying to manage your B2B sales during the COVID-19 scare. Your clients are probably as worried as you are about the ongoing crisies, not only are they worried about their own clientele and operations but are also worried about you delivering on your promises and deliveries.
Clear communication with your clients is important but is different in nature as compared to the communication with your employees.
The communication with your clients should focus on areas that are important to them, whether it is about the measures you are taking to keep people safe, or it is about delivery fulfilments.
One more important thing is to understand how you can provide relief to your clients. Should they get doorstep delivery, or deep discounts? Take the call, most importantly make sure that they are put at ease. They are stressed too!
Keep the shareholders calm
To say that there is a volatility in the market is a gross understatement. There is an impending sense of doom enveloping the financial markets as a recession seems imminent. It is natural that your shareholders are getting a little anxious considering that the earning season is just around the corner!
If yours is a publicly listed company, it is your responsibility as an ethical leader to communicate clearly to your shareholders, the impact this coronavirus pandemic has had on the company. Communicate to them, the short-term challenges and let them know what you plan to do, to solve the problem at hand. If possible, set up a webinar or a web-conference to convey all the details of the financial year, and how it impacts the shareholders.
Care for the community
The coronavirus unfortunately has a community impact, so whatever happens within the organization due to the coronavirus does impact the multiple communities around it. Not only do you need to think about any negative impact you may cause, but consciously work towards making a positive impact on the communities. This is the right time to improve your relationship with the local communities. Take up community projects of awareness, delivering essentials and other supplies, and offer transparency about the goings on within the company.
Spread awareness and stop rumor mongering
As much as possible, take up the proverbial mic and talk about the pandemic, the safety measures, and the impact it is extending on the business, lives, and the global community. Make sure that your information is verifiable. Put a stop to rumor mongering. It is quite human to fear the unknown. It is also human to go looking for information wherever possible. If you come across people within your organization, connected to the people in your organization, other stakeholders, or even your clients spreading unverified information or rumor about the pandemic, take strict measures. As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that only verified information is circulated.
Elevate leaders and delegate responsibility
Apart from setting up specialized communication teams, the top management or the leaders must (at least temporarily) delegate a part of their responsibilities to a curated network of teams and empower new leaders to take decisions and execute them without having to navigate the proverbial red tape in your organization.
As you are delegating this responsibility, make sure that there is clear accountability and that the responsibility and power is awarded to the right people at various levels. Though experience is a valuable resource when it comes to handling crisis situations. However, this is a novel, landscape-scale crisis. Here, the character of the individual is important. Someone who has a knack for staying calm and has a positive outlook on things is definitely going to do better.
These are uncertain times, indeed. In these times, it is natural for people, particularly employees to look towards the leaders for guidance, reassurance, and eventually solutions. Communication is key. Irrespective of whether we are going through the crisis of a pandemic of the scale of coronavirus or not, communication is critical.
One of the best ways to communicate internally or with the stakeholders is through an app. With Appy Pie you can create an app without coding, in just a few minutes!
In spirit of strengthening communication, you can also integrate a chatbot within your website and your brand-new app, so that your clients are put at ease immediately, with verifiable information at their fingertips. Get going now!