Comms during COVID-19

In times of uncertainty and fear, it becomes even more important to communicate in a consistent, clear and concise way.

COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on every business, in every sector.  With a rapidly shifting landscape and new government announcements every day, employers have an ethical responsibility to provide very clear information and guidance to employees. 

While many companies have taken this responsibility seriously, carefully following government guidelines and communicating clearly with employees, unfortunately others have been slow to follow suit. Companies which take a piecemeal or cavalier approach will leave employees at best exasperated and confused and at worst anxiousstressed and potentially gravely ill.  

Moreover, without prescriptive guidance from their employer, employees will naturally interpret guidance in their own way. This in turn leads to more anxiety and confusion and can result in the company presenting an inconsistent message to customers, suppliers and colleagues. 

Looking after employee wellbeing 

As PR practitioners, communication is our trade. We will always communicate in an ethical and transparent way both within our organisation and with clients and suppliers 

In recognition of our efforts to go over and above, last week we were shortlisted for the PRCA Workplace Champions Awards. These awards recognise PR agencies that demonstrate leadership and integrity in four key areas: staff welfare, account management, recruitment and retention and business practices.  

Staff welfare is a key element of the awards and communicating clearly with staff in a crisis is one very important way of looking after employee wellbeing.  

With this in mind, we’ve outlined six steps to help you communicate with your employees in the current coronavirus crisis: 

  1. Have clear procedures and protocols in place on how information will be communicated with employeesInformation should cover health and safety/welfare advice, business continuity, job security, pay and benefits, internal working practices and customer service issues, in that order. 
  2. Ensure that your messages are clear and prescriptive, not open to interpretation and doubt. (In the case of COVID-19 refer to official sources such as the government or the NHS.) If you don’t know, say you don’t know and promise to give an update as soon as you can. 
  3. Ensure that every employee receives information at the same time to avoid news travelling on the grapevine.  
  4. Use one main communication channel and follow up with others so that employees can access the information in their preferred format and can easily refer back to details. The same, consistent messages should be shared via email, internal newsletters, company intranet etc.  
  5. Provide regular, timely updates. We refresh our guidance note to staff each day when there’s something relevant to say, immediately following the Prime Minister’s daily press conference.
  6. Provide people with the opportunity and the means to ask questions, confidentially if need be. 

Organisations have a responsibility to counteract the misinformation spread via emotive headlines and social media by being a clear voice of reason in an increasingly uncertain world. 

By taking a strong stance and ensuring that employees are completely clear on what is expected, some of the anxiety and nervousness that many will be feeling now will be alleviated.  

If you'd like some help communicating with employees, customers or suppliers, contact us today.

If you'd like some help communicating with employees, customers or suppliers, contact us today.

Get in touch

You can find more tips on how to communicate with employees and customers about COVID-19 in this this guidance issued by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, co-authored by our Associate Director Dan Gerrella

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About the Author: Nikki Wilson

Nikki is a highly experienced copywriter and content creator who gets to the heart of the story and makes it come alive for audiences across web, print and broadcast media.

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