Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen global companies adopt various communication strategies in response to the Coronavirus crisis – with vastly different results.
At a time when the need for clarity is greater than ever, we asked crisis communications expert, Amanda Powell-Smith, CEO of Forster Communications, for the key things our multinational clients need to remember.
Amanda’s approach to communications at any time – but especially during COVID-19 – is to be both thoughtful and useful. Below, she shares the importance of adding value, and being part of the solution – not just adding to the noise.
Adding value at a time of confusion
The advice that follows is taken from Amanda’s article, Communicating with kindness, which she has kindly adapted for us to share with communications professionals within global companies.
COVID-19 has thrown the world off its axis and fundamentally changed millions of lives at a bewildering speed. It has also spawned an avalanche of communication – some excellent; some less than helpful.
Here are some tips to ensure your business communications add value.
- Think about all the audiences you want to engage – remembering your employees, suppliers and clients. It’s no good saying one thing to your external audiences – “we’re here for you”, “take care, stay safe” – then acting differently with your own staff.
- Consideration should run through everything you say and do. At a fundamental level, it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and thinking about how you can help them from their perspective, not yours. The decision for supermarkets to have hours reserved for the over-75s developed as a result of this approach.
- Think before you act. Will your idea have the impact you want it to have? Could there be any unintended consequences? Are you best placed on developing this idea?
- Above all, be kind.
- Don’t communicate for the sake of communication. Always think first about what you’re trying to achieve. We’re all drowning in messages. If you’re going to add to the noise, make sure there’s value in it for your audience.
- Do your research. If you have a good idea about how you can help, see if anyone else is already doing it. Offer to collaborate with them, or to endorse and promote what they’re doing rather than competing with them. This is particularly important if you’re planning to encourage your employees to volunteer or to support a project. New schemes and programmes are springing up all the time. Signpost those that have momentum behind them and the infrastructure in place before starting something new.
- If you reach out to offer support to your staff, make sure you can follow through and provide it. There’s nothing worse than responding to an offer, only to discover the help isn’t there.
- Change your communications and approach as the pandemic changes. Keep people informed by telling them how and why you’ve made changes.
Being thoughtful and useful should underpin communications at any time, but these qualities have never been as important as they are right now.
Communicating with multiple markets
There are several approaches to managing global communications. Some companies give their markets free rein, choosing to develop their communication campaigns locally based on the needs of their international audiences. Others prefer the central communications team to take the lead and produce content for all markets.
But there’s a middle ground that can be particularly effective. In this approach, the central team work closely with the international market to develop a framework based on agreed priorities and themes. With the framework established, the central team develop content and manage the translations, or the markets produce materials in their own language based on the agreed topics and themes. Amanda describes this approach as being like bricks in a wall: “Everyone has a chance to build their bit within it”.
By developing a framework based on being both thoughtful and useful – and by measuring localised content against these values – you can help to ensure that your global communications are part of the solution, not just adding to the noise.
As well as external company communications, internal comms have rocketed for many global organisations during this time. We’ve pulled together practical advice and guidance in our latest guide, Creating internal communications that engage and connect in every language that you may find useful.
Please share your experience in the comments below. If you have any questions or need further advice, call Comtec on +44 (0)1926 335681, or email firstname.lastname@example.org