The true impact of the pandemic won’t be known for a long time, but one thing we have been able to learn from is how early and effective communication can help with long-term business continuity.
The COVID-19 pandemic is both a health and economic crisis where trust is central to corporate and social survival. People at all levels of organisations have been asked to change the way they work, how they interact both professionally and socially and how they live their daily lives. Organisations who leaned into the impact of this crisis early, were seen to use the principles of good communication.
The COVID-19 crisis can be seen as three ‘pandemics’ running concurrently. The virus, the panic about the virus, and the business and economic implications. Each of these have required different communication tactics.
A two-pronged approach
Creating two key teams helps organisations effectively respond to these elements of a crisis:
1. Crisis management team
The crisis management team focuses on what is necessary to survive. It is a central, delegated decision-making group, responding quickly and being proactive towards key stakeholders.
2. Recovery team
Taking a pragmatic approach, the smaller recovery team focuses on where the organisation wants to be after the crisis and works back from there.
When these two teams are able to diligently work in conjunction with each other, the response becomes not just about being reactive to the crisis at the time but about forward planning. Although predicting the future is near impossible, putting placeholders in for certain situations - to have a Plan A, B and C - is imperative in being able to communicate what is happening, when it happens.
In similar crisis events, Governments and some large Australian companies set up a crisis management centre. A well-connected, centrally located crisis management team is vital to an organisation speaking with one voice to all stakeholders and ensuring that voice remains in line with the organisation’s values and objectives.
Communication should not only be about the now, it’s about the if. When the crisis management and recovery teams work cohesively together, they should be able to tackle both the now and the if.