The unprecedented global crisis has taken the world by surprise, causing a great deal of uncertainty, elevated stress, and anxiety that require thoughtful, people-first responses. During such a crisis, when information is unavailable or inconsistent, the What, When, and How to communicate is becoming more critical than ever. The article explores how organisations can communicate effectively and create clarity, build resilience to respond to the immediate challenge.
There is only one headline dominating our lives today -Covid-19. With 20 million+ cases globally, all anyone can talk about is the pandemic. Staring at a cumulative loss of around 9 trillion dollars to global GDP over 2020-21, theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) has termed it the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The pandemic is proving to be a moment of truth for all of us. While on the one hand, it has brought in a renewed sense of urgency to create a momentum around economic revival and health system reforms, on the other, it has highlighted the need to communicate right. The unprecedented global situation has thrown unique challenges to those leading the organisation’s communication efforts. While some have managed to capture attention, rest have been either ill-timed or irrelevant. People are spending more time online. TV and Radio are gaining more traction now.
With the crisis deepening, no one is really interested in the number of followers, engagement rate, etc but instead is wanting a more humane connection. People are looking for inspirational stories of struggle and triumph and how leaders, brands, and companies are responding. They want (re)assurance. With work from home becoming the new normal, the What, When, and How to communicate is becoming more critical than ever especially when the traditional channels, interfaces, and cadence of outreach are no longer appropriate and are constantly changing. It is here that communication can help strike the right tone, come out at the right time, and reinforce the organisation’s reputation among stakeholders. Coupled with technology, communication through live streams, posting of audio/video content can help enhance brands and organisations during these difficult times. At IPE Global we realized the severity of the crisis and are proactively transitioning towards more open and constructive communication. Staying connected has helped us tide over commonly raised issues of social isolation and dissociation within the organisation. With a ‘we are there for you’ approach, we have thus been able to contain a lot of anxiety among our colleagues and clients.
With a focus on communicating authentic, relevant and sensitive to people content, communication can become an enabler to develop the right tools and channels for a more effective and integrated messaging keeping in mind both the sensitivity and the complexity of the situation.
The crisis presents an opportune time to create meaningful content and build trust among people. Information saves lives; and in the context of the pandemic, there has been an excess of it. Added to it is the flood of misinformation that is posing a challenge for communicators. Often Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have been accused of censorship for taking down virus misinformation. A study on misinformation in Indiaby scholars from the University of Michigan, released in April 2020 showed that from just two
in the third week of January 2020, the instances of debunked misinformation rose to 60 by the first week of April 2020. It is here that the role of communicators can not only help ease mental stress but also complement efforts to contain the virus.
With more people connected virtually, social media can be capitalized judiciously. While organisations can continue to share regular content on their platforms, they can also provide Covid-19 updates to ease out apprehensions. This will just go on to indicate that one does not have to stay away from engaging with the audience due to the crisis but be more proactive and understanding during such times. It is unchartered territory and we all need to work together as companies and communities – and, most importantly, as humans – to get through this crisis. The crisis is helping us become better – more humane, more empathetic and more thoughtful. Communication as a catalyst can help keep up the tempo and add finesse to the finish.
About the Author
Tanya Singh is the Director at IPE Global and Head of Department – Corporate Communication & Quality Assurance. Her role is instrumental in planning and coordinating the effective delivery of internal and external communications which positively promotes the group’s vision, strategy and client engagement. A seasoned professional, she is passionate about corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)and mentors the team in developing and supporting CSR activities. She has been associated with several leading organisations which includes PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Oberoi Hotels, Bank of America, Bharti Airtel, and ABN AMRO. An alumna of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), Tanya is also a Chartered Accountant and a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. Her specialities include – Corporate Communications, Marketing Strategy, Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Relations, Strategic Alliances, Branding, and Quality Assurance.