We are all learning how to communicate differently in the COVID-19 world. Whether it is internal or external communication, there are a few key things we can all remember to communicate more effectively.
Express Your Organization’s Values and Empathy
People are vulnerable, so leading with kindness is important. Recognize that these are tough times and that you are speaking to people who may be handling more than they ever thought imaginable while worrying about their friends and families’ safety.
Also, remember that your organization’s values should be the guiding principle for whatever communication you put out. In combination with empathy, you are likely to earn the trust that is necessary for solid communication on an ongoing basis.
Be Direct and Honest
Now is not the time for euphemisms. Don’t speak in circles. State things clearly and with as much honesty as possible. There is currently great uncertainty. You won’t be able to predict the future, but be mindful to be as open as you can in any given situation with where things stand, where they are going, and what that might mean for the people you’re talking to.
Address all Relevant Areas of the Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic has multiple areas of concern: public health, business, economic, information, and social. While any one communication may not be able to address all areas, at some point try to speak to each of the areas as they pertain to your organization, your stakeholders, and your employees. Focusing on the economic impact while not recognizing the social impact may make an organization seem cold. Similarly, if you only speak to public health but don’t recognize the business impact, even if just for employees, can cause more uncertainty and questions than you mean to create. Understand that all these areas will influence those you’re communicating with, and you need to speak to them at some level.
Communicate at All Levels
Be sure to communicate both up and down. As you report to those above you, don’t forget to share the information with your colleagues and those who work under you. There will be things that cannot be shared, but as with being open and honest, try to share everything that you can. Look at ways to bring people together every few days to describe what’s happening, even if that’s a daily update email. People will be working on many different projects; make sure you let everyone know about the work that is being done.
Share Thanks with Your Team
When you have the chance, pause and thank your team for all the hard work they’re doing. Let them know that you appreciate the effort they’re putting in to meeting the needs of your organization. Tell them if you’ve received praise for their work from above. Share with them stories of the impact their work is making. It will provide a boost for their continued efforts.
If you are looking for additional resources on communication during COVID-19, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has a Crisis Communications Resources page that includes a variety of free articles and PRSA member-only webinars. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a variety of free resources including video, fact sheets, and posters to aid in your communication surrounding the virus.