“Unprecedented” Times Call for “Unprecedented” Commitment to Thoughtful Internal Communications

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Unprecedented. 

It’s the one word dominating the reports on the COVID-19 pandemic and its universal impact. This unprecedented crisis has already impacted just about every organization, business, community and government entity – interrupting all facets of our lives as we knew it. Additionally, the total impact of the event and the inflection point toward a rebound are still largely unknown. However, we do know this too shall pass, and one day in the somewhat near future, we must collectively dust ourselves off and step back into the ring to rebuild our lives and livelihood post-COVID-19.

Professional communicators are trained to warn clients about the importance of having a crisis communications program in place.

Following the COVID-19 experience, the phrase “it’s not a matter of if but when” will take on a whole new context and create a baseline for future discussions. What we “have done” and what we “have not done” will have exponential impact on the speed and potency of our comeback or failure to do so.

We are two weeks into a shutdown and most major brands with loyalty programs of any sort have taken the time and effort to reach out to customers regarding the status of business operations. But the truly “unprecedented” companies must have a laser focus to communicate directly and transparently with their most important audience, employees. From the board room to the mail room. In all times, employees are your true brand ambassadors and your company’s most valuable asset.

Even the most prepared organizations most likely did not foresee the impact on their employees. If you have looked at employees as an expense vs. an asset of high priority, you are not alone.

Mark Cuban has been a recent business visionary who has repeatedly talked about the concern for the health and well-being of his employees first rather than the future of his businesses. On CNBC this week he said, “how companies treat workers during this pandemic could define their brand ‘for decades’.” He warned other business leaders about sending their employees back to work too soon while the pandemic is still a threat to community health.

Show empathy to those you have laid off. Demonstrate care to those you have furloughed.

Those on the front line keeping your business going— treat them as royalty. These employees will be key to your future success as they emerge as future clients, possible allies and your valued employees emulating your corporate culture.

The time to act is now. When communicating to your employees during challenging times remember the I.C.E. approach with respect to tonality:

  • Informative – Always keep in mind your internal audience is the face and life of your business and what information they care most about and will find useful for peace of mind and the performance of their role in the organization
  • Caring – Companies and organizations can easily come across as cold and faceless entities that care more about the business of conducting business rather than the capturing the essence of a strong corporate culture where employees truly are the business
  • Empathetic – Is management leading by example? If employees are investing additional effort or making sacrifices, then what is the management team doing to lead the way. Share stories of employees coming together to support each other and clients in creative, impactful ways

One thing is clear: This is far from over and even when we get back to some sense of normalcy, employees will remember this experience – good and bad. With the right approach to internal communications and the right approach to employee engagement in tough times, this situation can actually enhance relationships with your true brand ambassadors. Don’t let the opportunity get lost in fear and uncertainty.