Till as early as February, businesses across India were aggressively planning long term strategies for expansion, growth, and diversification. Others were looking at ways to find newer consumer bases abroad and making active hiring decisions. However, in a matter of weeks, the situation has changed dramatically with uncertainty and anxiety clouding the economy in the wake of the global Coronavirus crisis. The sudden shift, the need for an absolute lockdown and shutting of most manufacturing operations has resulted in a crisis that needs to be tackled using innovative strategies and effective communication. Yes, effective communication is a critical component for organizations maneuvering through this crisis as a gap in communication often leads to information lag and anxiety among stakeholders.
It is imperative therefore that organizations and businesses adopt an effective communication strategy at this hour of crisis to provide timely updates, keep the stakeholders informed and build yourself as a thought leader with a humane touch. Communications and PR agencies are playing active roles as active communication strategy providers for organizations in this situation.
This is a key element of any communication that goes out from an organization at a time of crisis – whether an internal crisis or an external one impacting the business. Stakeholders include consumers of your products and services, investors and shareholders as well as employees. As all these stakeholders face an uncertain future, timely information, updates and a transparent approach from the organization’s end can go a long way in reassuring them. This is the right time to communicate regularly about how you are planning to stay afloat during this crisis, what are your contingency plans and how you plan to keep the strategies you are adopting to keep the business running during this extraordinary situation. A number of organizations have already come forward to announce their contingency plans; others have assured their employees that they will receive advance salaries to keep their households running at this difficult time in history.
Misinformation and fake news is a major nuisance of our times. Be it health-related information or a government directive; it takes just a fake Whatsapp forward to spread a piece of false information spread like wildfire. To cite an instance, the COVID 19 crisis has impacted sales of newspaper publications due to fear about their potential in spreading the virus. Such was the impact that even the Minister of Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javdekar had to tweet and clarify that touching newspapers will not spread the infection and that newspapers were critical to get the right information at this period of time.
For organizations dealing with this crisis, it is therefore important to use their communication channels to effectively dispel any misleading information. The teams in charge of our communication strategy must keep themselves abreast of such developments and religiously follow authentic sources of information such as WHO, Ministry of Health and other public health organizations. For hospitals and organizations in the healthcare domain, dispelling false narratives is all the more important. Addressing misinformation with alacrity is critical to any communication strategy at this hour.
Build thought leadership
A series of communications by Lifebuoy educating people about the importance of washing hands in this crisis have earned much praise in India. The communications published on bought space refrain from promoting Lifebuoy but clearly ask people to wash hands with whichever soap they have to prevent the infection.
A global crisis is a difficult time for businesses but it is also an opportunity to establish yourself as a thought leader. Effective and innovative communication strategies play a vital role in this. Communication and PR agencies must aggressively scout for opportunities through which an organization or individual can build an image of a thought leader by addressing public concerns over the issue, offering innovative solutions to tackle the problem and advocating policy approaches for the government.
Communicating with a humane approach
At a time when countries across the world are living through disastrous tragedies, using communication strategies with a humane approach is another critical need. Communication strategists must keep this vital ingredient of strategy in mind. Communication should be mindful of the human tragedy and try to reach out to the people who are at the suffering end. If you were planning community based CSR ideas, this is the right time to put them into action and communicate your plans through the media.