Communicating during the Coronavirus – how best to engage and influence
With the Coronavirus dominating not only the news agenda but also discussions in boardrooms across the country, the UK is gearing up for significant disruption over the coming days, weeks and months.
While so much is still unknown at this stage, what is clear is that businesses have a duty to act. How organisations deal with the outbreak, whether or not they are currently affected, will impact not only how employees view their employer, but also how they are perceived by their customers and wider stakeholders.
Clearly, customers and employees have an expectation that businesses will mitigate the impact on society while balancing the needs of their workforce’s health and safety. Providing clear and impactful communications that reassure, while outlining contingency plans in place will give employees confidence in their employer. Transparency will equip employees them with the information and processes needed to navigate the crisis.
According to the The Edelman Trust Barometer, employees trust the information they receive from their employer over all other sources including government, media and NGOs. Businesses therefore need to prepare for questions, communicate regularly and often, and ensure consistent and accurate messages.
How employees receive communication around work and personal travel protocols, remote working, supplier and customer interactions, is very much based on the tone and style of the information imparted.
While there is a natural temptation to simply copy and paste official advice, this can serve to cause further anxiety among teams, particularly those who are being asked to work remotely and who are feeling the impact of ‘social isolation’.
What is evident is that while employees worry about their physical safety and that of their families, they are also concerned about the potential disruptions to their work and the organisation as a whole.
Crafting careful messaging that is clear, yet warm and reassuring will enhance the employer brand and give reassurance against a backdrop of fear and alarm.
Represent has been working with clients to create purposeful messaging that brings forward the organisation’s brand values in the information provided.
There is no disputing that the commercial impact on businesses will be significant: as the situation unfolds it is important to remain open to the opportunities that may arise. From a communications perspective, media have an insatiable appetite for stories that look beyond the hard facts on the spread of this virus.
Represent has been working closely with our media contacts to identify where our clients can add positive messaging around this all-consuming topic.
Clearly the PR angles need to be authentic, however there are key themes that are emerging.
- Innovation, particularly around technology that enables remote working is a hot topic just now and we have a number of clients that are showcasing their products and delivering on the needs of businesses supporting their colleagues working from home.
- Insights driven, particularly on how the virus is impacting business, is also noteworthy. We have identified key newslines that have the potential to showcase positive messaging around our clients products and services that enhance their brand and showcase their values.
- Multichannel to drive engagement. Audiences consume information in various channels, however in the absence of face-to-face, we have found that video is achieving significant standout with both internal and external audiences. Pre-recorded content around potential scenarios, such as event cancellations, puts clients on the front-foot with all their stakeholders as the situation unfolds.
The COVID-19 virus has ushered in a time of incredible unease and uncertainty that is affecting all of us. This is the time to be proactive in your approach and consistent in your delivery while keeping your audience very much front of mind in your communication.
If you need support in communicating through any difficult situation or crisis, please get in touch for reasoned advice.