Is Your Communication Plan COVID-19 Proof?

April 22, 2020 Gabrielle Garvin

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many of our clients are dealing with chaos and uncertainty. Having been compelled to respond to local, federal, and international health guidelines,  employees, customers, and partners are struggling to balance business goals with keeping employees safe and productive in addition to the uncertainty of the marketplace. IT systems are being stressed by remote workers, as many clients find their infrastructure can’t support their entire team at once. Others not acquainted with a work-from-home (WFH) environment are challenged by home internet issues and the new circumstances of working from home. 

Speech bubbles with crumbled yellow and green paper

Adjusting to this new normal creates an opportunity to rethink the future of your business. As our clients address the concerns of their employees, customers, and partners, communication becomes more important than ever.
 
In the uncertainty of the COVID-19 era, here are five steps to COVID-19 and stress-proof your communications strategy: 

  1. Revisit, redefine, and prioritize content and messaging themes
    • What needs to be said? 
      • What is the impact on the employee/customer/partner experience? 
      • Are you poised for growth or retention? 
      • What changes (if any) are involved for your brand? 
  2. Identify your audience
    • Who needs to hear what? 
      • Internal: Leadership, front line, middle management, employees, and their families.
      • External: Customers, channel partners, distributors, dealers, retail partners, small business partners. 
  3. Evaluate current tools or applications for your overall communications
    • Internally, does everyone know what tools they should use and for what purpose?
    • Externally, do you have robust applications to support ongoing communications with your partners (i.e., Pardot) or your customers (i.e., Marketing Cloud - Email Studio). 
    • Are your teams aligning the urgency of a communication with the appropriate tool? Email can be used for messages that aren’t urgent, a chat application such as MS Teams for quick answers, and tools such as Zoom or WebEx for important announcements.
  4. Find communication gaps 
    • Are there channels outside of face-to-face meetings to communicate and receive information? 
      • Are your employees, partners, or customers aware and trained to use these channels? 
    • Are your messages understood and accepted or are they misinterpreted or not conveyed at all?
      • Are you only communicating in one direction or is feedback also encouraged?  
      • Do you have mechanisms in place to receive this feedback? 
    • Are people fearful of speaking up or mistrust the speaker? 
      • Those in fear can’t properly pay attention to what is being said to them. 
      • If there is mistrust, a message may not be believed or that the full message has been shared. 
  5. Activate the communication plan
    • Thoughtfully leverage tools to deliver messages across the ideal channels. For example, is a webinar best in a town hall setting or are smaller groups led by managers best for the message? 
      • Create a communications calendar to establish meeting cadence. Do you have the right people and enough time for review and feedback before publishing?
      • Engage and empower change champions as a direct layer of support for the duration of COVID-19-related changes. This allows leadership to focus on business drivers while engaging employees across the organization to support one another through changes in the work environment. 
      • Secure a feedback loop to create actionable feedback. Consider the use of surveys, polls, focus groups, and health checks depending on what works best for your employees, customers, and partners. 

In these unprecedented times, a well and thoughtfully crafted communications plan can increase brand awareness and loyalty for all stakeholders. This results in a clear distinction of your brand, setting the foundation for future success. With this foundation, your teams can and will adjust to their new normal for the foreseeable future.
 
Your organization has the opportunity to look beyond COVID-19, and Appirio is here to help. If you need help adapting your communications strategy and/or crafting a communications plan to ensure your brand stays effective and responsive throughout this crisis, contact us today

About the Author

Gabrielle Garvin is a Principal Change Consultant at Appirio hyper-focused on organizational digital transformation. She has partnered with numerous Fortune 100 to Fortune 500 companies from various industries to create and implement customized and comprehensive strategies aimed at integrating and driving micro, macro, and global changes; setting up the individual and the organization for successful transformation. Her passion for change extends beyond organizations as she loves helping individuals and communities embrace change by breaking down fears and finding solutions and opportunities as a result. She enjoys training with her two working German Shepherds, meditation, hiking, and studying the science and the art of change.

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