April 29, 2020

Corporate Communications During a Crisis

Josh Gentine

Being an effective communicator requires a good amount of bravery. It is not always easy to say the hard thing, deliver unwelcome news, or simply say that you are uncertain of the future. But right now, employees and stakeholders are looking to corporate leaders for assurances and ideas for a way forward.

According to a recent Gallup report, corporate leadership should be communicating frequently -- daily, weekly, or as available -- to address their organization's COVID-19 response, advice, policies, and protocols.

Even for leaders with solid communication skills, this is a challenging time. For those who may be trying to improve their skills under fire, it could be overwhelming. Regardless of skill level, these few ideas will help sharpen communication skills during a crisis.

Identify your audience.

Who do you need to communicate with internally and externally? Clients, employees, the public? The way you communicate with each audience may vary, but there are some through lines that are the same no matter what. Internal and external communication work together to help you meet the goals of your company.

For your team, communication helps provide buy-in. By keeping them informed about the direction of the organization, they can more clearly envision their own future within it. This boosts morale and engagement. People who understand what is expected of them, simply put, do better work – and sharing your expectations is on you!

Communicating with the public improves brand identity. In this digital age, customers can easily do their research and get informed about the products they buy and the companies they patronize. You want people to recognize your brand – why it is different than others, how you help, and why they can and should trust you.

Share your values.

I discussed in my previous article how to cultivate a healthy, positive company culture in a remote setting. The company culture specific to your organization will guide you through difficult communication. With a set of values to fall back on, everyone in the room is coming from a place of equal standing. Your values will help you ensure that your message – both internally and externally – is unified.

Be straightforward and transparent.

I think it’s safe to say we’re not firing on all cylinders during a crisis, but don’t let your communications fall by the wayside. There’s an old idiom: say what you mean and mean what you say. If you are looking for a specific set of behaviors, ask for them. Be clear. Well-communicated expectations help to hold all of us accountable.

Knowing how to communicate clearly, confidently, and well will ensure leaders are able to overcome challenges in uncertain times. If this is a skill you are struggling with in good times or in a crisis, reach out. Contact me to learn how we can work together to improve this essential leadership skill.

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