• juliannixon

Building trust as COVID bites

The accelerated pace of change triggered by the COVID pandemic calls for enhanced company communication strategies, both internally and externally.

Clear, inspiring and timely messages from company leaders will build trust, snuff out misinformation and have a positive impact on a company’s reputation.

Tactics should include engaging with employees, supporting local communities and aligning communications across all channels.

These concrete steps will help rattled workforces believe in the future, demonstrate to communities that your company is a good corporate citizen and ensure all stakeholders understand who you are, what you stand for and what you have to offer.

While the specific impacts of the pandemic on companies vary across industry sectors and are influenced by initiatives already taken, transparency is crucial as stakeholders react to the changes going on amidst a global crisis like no other.

In this uncertain environment, companies are advised to keep their fingers on the pulse of what matters to each stakeholder and make sure actions and communications are geared towards addressing these needs.

Messages distributed by companies struggling to stay afloat could include an explanation of how the changes being made are part of a plan to return to profitability.

Companies being forced to change their business models to adapt to new operating environments will need to show how the new ways of working are helping them to achieve their revised targets. A company that gives stakeholders confidence that their expectations are being met is well on the road to retaining their loyalty and winning new business.

Companies who are thriving because of extra demand sparked by COVID, or because staff are already working remotely, are in the driving seat. Now is the time to trumpet the message that strong performance is the result of strategic decisions made by the company and the diligence and hard work of employees.

Internal communications during the COVID crisis are particularly important. Employees will have tough personal questions about job security, changing job descriptions, job opportunities and health provisions as their employer navigates through the COVID crisis.

In answering these questions, company leaders must show empathy and listen to their employees if they want to boost staff morale. Recognising and addressing human emotions, such as anxiety, while pledging support for the workforce will go a long way to building trust and motivating staff to do what needs to be done.

An often overlooked-element of a company’s reputation is how it gives back to local communities. Investing in communities in sustainable ways is more than a marketing ploy because it boosts an organisation’s reputation, which in turn manifests in business results.

In summary, the COVID pandemic is forcing companies to adjust to changes in their operating environment or be left behind. Those who are communicating what they are doing to confront emerging issues and make the most of new opportunities are the ones who are bringing their stakeholders along with them. An effective public relations programme at a time of great uncertainty gives stakeholders confidence in what a company is doing and where it is going.

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