Communicating during Coronavirus

by Lesley Brydon, Managing Director

Before Coronavirus, we would’ve said very few businesses will encounter a true crisis — where a catastrophic event happens and in a moment the norm is flipped upside down. Loss of life, property or trust is usually the consequence, and the impact on organisational value can be significant.

And despite businesses closing at a moments notice, staff being furloughed and the future being uncertain; this is a very different kind of crisis. It’s happening to everyone, so it’s more of a new normal.

A crisis is newsworthy, and while the pandemic is top of the news agenda, we are all in this together. Job losses aren’t big news. Good news is. Strange times indeed, and there is no blueprint.

However, as with any issue or crisis, the key piece of advice for business leaders remains the same; communicate with your stakeholders.

This choice of words isn’t an accident. Communicate with them — don’t wait until they communicate with you. And remember your stakeholders fall into different categories — customers, suppliers, partners, media and most importantly, employees, who can be your biggest advocates. Think about what they need to know about your business, and tell them in a measured, informed way.

Boil your message down to two or three key points, make sure they hold water and repeat them as often as possible — in communications with stakeholders.

If you’re going to be in the spotlight, be it a (virtual) stakeholder event, in front of a major customer, or even in a media interview, be upfront. If you don’t know something, say so; you will come over as evasive if not. Or, worse you’ll make a stab in the dark. It’s fine (particularly at the moment) to say you don’t know the answer, if you qualify with an offer to follow up.

Most importantly, be kind. This is a horribly uncertain time for everybody, and the perception of your business and how it weathers the storm will last for a long time. An aggressive, evasive or profit hungry business leader will bring out the worst in others at what, for many, will be a defining moment. Humility and an authentic personality can make all the difference to the future success of your business.