What Communications Teams Can Do Now


A short time ago, I wrote a post about how important it is for organizations to protect and support their communications functions in times like these.  But, now that we’re in that indeterminate “no man’s land” between the shutdown and what is increasingly looking like a phased and gradual reopening, what should communications leaders and their teams be doing now?  I have a few suggestions:

  • Crisis Plan Refresh – This pandemic has forced many organizations that have crisis plans to use and, in effect, test them.  If you had a crisis plan before the pandemic, you just ran a very real-world crisis scenario that you can use to identify gaps in your response that need to be addressed before the next one hits.

If you didn’t have a formal plan, you likely built the elements of one as you addressed the virus.  You could take those learnings and build one using those elements as a base. But, remember: the best crisis plans have much more in them than just messages and frequently-asked questions.

Lastly, this is also an opportunity to ensure that your existing, updated, or new crisis plan works seamlessly with any business continuity/operations plans your organization has.

  • Competitor/Peer Monitoring – Most of the time, organizations pay very little attention to what their peers or competitors are doing and saying on a day-to-day basis. Why does this matter so much today?  Because nearly every organization is being challenged by the virus and response, and how your competitors/peers respond can and will affect you and your reputation.

If your operation is considered an essential service, how are your competitors’ employees feeling about their roles, the availability of PPE, etc. and what does that imply for you?

If you’ve shut down or massively scaled back operations, is that what all of your competitors are doing?  Are they furloughing staff or paying them? Are they permanently closing plants or just shutting them temporarily?

If you work for a university, how are your peers dealing with the significant financial and logistical challenges they’re facing?

If you’re a large taxpaying entity, how are your competitors handling those obligations?

If some of your direct competitors have stepped up and retooled or made donations to control the virus and you haven’t, are you likely to face scrutiny and criticism?

Lastly, when the economy begins to reopen, how are your competitors/peers handling and communicating that?  Are there lessons you can learn and mistakes you can avoid?

These are all good things for your organization to know so they can guide your messaging and strategy.

  • Employee Engagement Strategy – Nearly every organization has created significant dislocation among its employees.  Some have had to furlough and lay off staff while others told their staff to work from home. Still others insisted their employees come to work because they were in essential industries.

It would be prudent for these same organizations to consider how they will acknowledge the sacrifices their employees have had to make during this pandemic.  Once that is done, they will need to reconsider or develop new employee communications strategies to reconnect all of their employees to the organization and to its strategy.  It’s definitely not too early to start planning that now.

  • Business Communications Strategy – The leadership at your organization is thinking about what this unprecedented disruption means for your organization, both in the short- and long-term.  They may not have those strategies fully fleshed out as yet, but it’s not too soon to begin thinking about how you will communicate what the organization will have to now do to achieve its likely-restated goals.
  • Investor Relations – The Coronavirus upheaval has meant all publicly-traded clients need to at least consider changes to their investor-focused messages. Are you still providing guidance?  How will you engage with investors on earnings calls and off? How does your messaging need to change to appropriately consider the environment we’ll be operating in three or six months from now?
  • Media/Presentation Training – In normal times, conducting media or presentation training for your top leaders is one of the hardest things to schedule. Now that everyone is working from home and will be for some weeks to come, you can use this period to take them through virtual media/presentation training.  This is important to do now because, as the crisis eases, an organization’s leaders are going to need to be very visible – and will have to do their best to put their best foot forward.
  • LinkedIn Strategy – More and more organizations are appreciating the power of having a strong presence on LinkedIn, the number one business-oriented social platform. Until recently, this meant just having an updated personal and organizational page.  But, this really needs to be so much more – long-form content, establishing and engaging with meaningful connections, etc.  Now is an excellent time to tackle this, with an eye towards maintaining it as a part of your ongoing communications strategy when things get back to what we think of as normal.
  • Collateral/Marketing Materials Review– Since the pandemic struck, we’ve seen many organizations struggle with adopting the right tone and messaging for their ads.

What is the right way to talk about a pandemic that’s costing tens of thousands of lives, billions of dollars in economic damage, and creating deep worries for everyone?

Does your organization’s current messaging match the tone and expectations of the moment? Is the tone unrelentingly optimistic?  How do you talk about your company and its role in the economy?  How are you recognizing your employees?

If you’re in healthcare, are you going beyond just talking about how to avoid COVID-19 but how your organization is responding to the crisis?

If you’re in academia, have your messages fully transitioned to talking about distance learning (vs. showing your beautiful campus)?

  • Website Review/Refresh – While much is still uncertain about what our “new normal” will be, we have enough of a directional indication. Social distancing, masks and other measures are likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Consider your current website.  While you don’t have to show people wearing masks, are they at least shown socially distancing?  And, again, what tone are you striking?

After reviewing your site, consider the following: websites are significant undertakings that require considerable time, staff and resources.  It’s often hard to find time to execute such projects when there are so many other things that need to be done.  Making the decision to redo your website now is one of the best ways to use the current lull and prepare for the future.

We are helping many of our clients address these and other communications challenges and opportunities.  Please let us know if we can help you or someone you know navigate these unprecedented times.

In the meantime, be safe and be well.