The spring of 2020 brought an unexpected halt to growth for many companies and society at large. The response to the global Covid-19 pandemic – the Great Lockdown – created shutdowns, supply chain disruptions, and rising international tensions. Many businesses are still plagued by declining revenues, delayed investments, canceled conferences, and a general lack of visibility.
In some respects, however, the crisis served as an accelerator. Major structural changes in society and the economy became necessary, most notably in fast-growing digital services for commerce, healthcare, and remote work. The changes have been far-reaching and difficult to see, both at the societal level and within companies and organizations.
Navigating through and out of the crisis presents management teams with tough decisions and challenges. But the situation also creates opportunities to build and communicate a new agenda for businesses going forward. What kind of new reality awaits? In what way might it change our strategic priorities?
Three communication priorities are particularly important for leaders who are dealing with major changes and who want to build their business out of the crisis.
Three priorities to emerge stronger after the crisis
1. Interpret and define the playing field
There is a growing consensus that the crisis will change working methods, behavioral patterns, and business models. How can a management team use the situation to interpret and define the playing field going forward? Political and regulatory conditions have changed customer behavior and the competitive situation. How can you get your message across with employees as well as with external stakeholders, including customers, shareholders, business partners, policymakers, and the media?
– Define which external interests, perspectives, and discussions will set the boundaries for the company’s freedom of action and business conditions. What are the obstacles? What are the necessary conditions? And what are the opportunities for growth?
– Articulate which relationships, issues, and positioning the business should focus on to bring about changes that benefit the business moving forward. Whether it be within a specific industry, in public opinion, in investor sentiment, and among customers.
2. Communicate the need for change and create engagement
Crises often lead to increased receptivity to change and willingness to engage in the process, both internally and externally. Maneuverability for launching new initiatives that change the business is greater than ever. These may entail changes that have been ongoing for some time, or those that have suddenly become urgent. New ways of working, new office solutions, new investments, and growth areas.
– Articulate and get buy in for a credible and concrete change narrative for the business’ future. The story should be clearly linked to the purpose of the business and answers the questions of why? why now? how? in what time frame? and what are we going to achieve? The goal is to show action, create commitment, reduce uncertainty, and to calibrate expectations for the outcome.
– Design a plan for communication methods and priorities during and after the crisis. Formulate the conditions for communication to respond to current challenges, to become more agile, digital, measurable, and value-adding in the future; both within the business and vis-à-vis the outside world. Many businesses have already come a long way on that journey. Others are still in the starting blocks.
Cutbacks, savings, and delayed investments dampen optimism and motivation among employees. How does one “restart” and build much-needed momentum despite limited visibility ahead? While at the same time maintaining flexibility for dealing with potential new setbacks? It’s about articulating and gaining acceptance for management’s agenda, picking up the pace again, and ensuring the business emerges from the crisis stronger than before.
– Design initiatives and symbols that mark the end of the acute phase of the crisis, and signal a restart amid continued uncertainty and the risk of setbacks
– Define where the business can establish a clear and concrete direction moving forward, vis-à-vis the board, shareholders, and the outside world, as well as which issues key messages need to address uncertainty and risks of setbacks.
– Ensure continuous monitoring and follow-up of the situation inside and outside the organization. Identify issues, risks, and uncertainties at an early stage.
Diplomat Communications is a leading strategic communications consultancy firm in Sweden. We have extensive experience supporting businesses that want to work with communication and external relations in a structured and results-oriented manner to achieve their business goals. Our advisors have rich expertise, highly-developed methods, and powerful communication tools for driving business-critical processes, both strategically and operationally.
Feel free to contact us if you want to know more about how Diplomat Communications can support communications at your company or organization.