7 suggestions for restarting inside communication about COVID-19

Last week we ran a series of webinars for communicators that focused on a model we recommend restarting internal communications through a crisis for greater effectiveness in the long run. These are referred to as 3Rs: Reflect, Reimagine, Reboot.

The sessions resulted in fruitful discussions, sharing of best practices and challenges from participants, which enabled us all to have a dialogue about how best to approach the next steps.

For the most part, the pandemic forced us to go back to basics – and the lessons we learned (and continue to learn) should remind us of what is important and what we don't want to lose.

We found that there are a number of tips and reminders that have become as natural as things that we as guides and communicators should remember and share with you in the pandemic.

Here are 7 tips to keep in mind when running, communicating, and restarting internal communications about COVID-19:

1. Keep listening to employee needs and wants.

Always build communication with your audience and their communication needs. Sometimes we spend 80% of our time composing a message and almost no time listening to our audience. Often times, employees like to share the opportunity, what they need, what works, and what could be better. Think of a way or two that will allow you to listen to more audiences, be it a quick survey or a series of focus groups, to really gauge how resonating your communication is.

2. Use this moment to get feedback from executives and gain a deeper understanding of their goals and priorities.

The pandemic shifted everyone's priorities – but it also demonstrated the value of clearing priorities to move everyone. Use this time to work with executives and set priorities that you can broaden for employees.

3. Authenticity is more important than ever – keep it real and say it in plain language.

This time was a great balance as at no point in our life were all people affected by the same external challenge. When the pandemic hit and organizations felt immediate effects, we didn't have time to massage messages or create certain perceptions – we just had to be ourselves. As a result, many companies have seen the positive impact in terms of connection and engagement.

Given the magnitude and speed of change over the past few months, we find that people have no tolerance for things that don't matter or for corporate language. Keep it real and be yourself and help your leaders do the same.

4. Don't duck difficult topics – find ways to facilitate respectful conversation.

Trust is built through transparency and people are now looking for answers, probably more than ever. The challenge is that we don't have all the answers – but that's all the more reason to engage with your teams. In the absence of solutions, leaders can maintain respect and offer empathy and support that they get back in kind.

The truth is that we will all find this out together. So keep in mind that your co-workers are looking for your input, support, and information when you have it, rather than all of the answers.

5. Remember that times of crisis are opportunities – be brave and think big!

If ever there was time to ask, "Why not?" it's snowing! Opportunities arise with the crisis, and we've seen big ideas with daunting implications for change that were implemented quickly because they were needed.

For example, companies that think big open new doors to work arrangements and collaboration that have unleashed their productivity, as well as new avenues for creativity and savings. These moments don't happen often, so use them to the company's advantage.

6. As you ponder, rethink, and restart your internal communication plan through the pandemic, remember that this year has changed people forever.

The pandemic is a turning point and we will never see this type of crisis again. People are changed because the way they view work and life has ultimately changed.

Think about the myths that have been destroyed, such as:

  • The sale must be done in person
  • We cannot be productive virtually and managers have to be physically present
  • We need to meet in person to be effective
  • And many more

People will be more open than ever to trying new things … because they have seen how they work. Not only that, people will expect organizations to have the same insight and not try to go back to the past without implementing some of the positive insights that rose to the top during this year's crisis. If we fail to meet the new expectations of our employees, we risk becoming outdated and losing talent and diversity if we stick to the old paradigm.

7. Don't go alone – work in your network and get outside help for ideas and learning.

If the pandemic hasn't reminded us of anything else, we are all interdependent, even if we are far apart. Nobody has to decide the way forward alone. Find partners in your organization in order to reflect, redefine and start over your communication approach together with you. Your co-workers will likely be excited to work with you to build a new normal.

Also, reach out to experts outside of your company for ideas and partnerships. Nobody has fully figured this out, and leveraging the experiences of others is one way to bring out even more great minds for your business.

If you focused today, what tip could heighten your efforts to restart internal communications?

– –David Grossman

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