Covid-19 accelerated countless changes in organisations globally, and communications became a top priority for many businesses. Being able to successfully navigate Covid-19 showed just how powerful communications can be and highlighted the importance of communications professionals within organisations.
Stephen Waddington, from Wadds Inc, recently authored the Government Communication Service Covid-19 Communications Advisory Panel report, which identified eight distinct areas of opportunity for communications in light of Covid-19. The report presents the huge changes in how both private and public sector organisations in the UK have communicated during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Virtual communication
With many businesses choosing to remain either fully or partially working remotely, there is a much larger emphasis on employee trust and flexibility. With most communication pros working from home over lockdown, virtual communication became common-place and it is set to stay. The benefits in terms of efficiency and productivity are hard to match. Experts predicted the move to virtual working would have taken around ten years under normal circumstances, however Covid-19 accelerated this trend in a matter of weeks.
Communication has been a critical management priority for organisations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and, for many businesses, this meant that internal communications became an executive management role, even if it wasn’t previously considered one. Communications teams have supported leaders in listening, planning and engaging with stakeholders – both internal and external. According to a poll by the Institute of Internal Communications, two-thirds of internal communicators said that leaders looked to them for more guidance during the crisis. The pandemic presents an opportunity to level-up the role of communications long after a vaccine is found.
- Communication hubs
For a quick and effective response, many organisations created hubs to assist with crisis communications. This enabled timely and appropriate management of communications, in which owned media platforms, typically websites, sat at the heart of an organisation’s communication effort. This more agile approach, combining disparate departments working together effectively and efficiently, using digital tools, is an opportunity for organisations to break free from traditional department silos and bureaucracy.
- Internal communication
Organisations have reported a significant increase in employee engagement during the crisis as teams pulled together and felt listened to by their employers, with more frequent communication. Measures such as pulse surveys, one-to-ones, whole-company weekly CEO video calls and more regular updates from senior management have helped ensure staff are aware of the importance of their role within the wider goals of the business. Covid-19 has had a humanising impact on internal communications inside businesses that is unlikely to be reversed.
- Digital media
Digital transformation was already happening, however it increased extensively during lockdown. In our time spent at home, we all turned to the internet, seeking out new ways to keep connected and informed. Social media, messaging and video services saw significant growth in subscriptions and usage. TikTok was arguably the social media platform of lockdown, Joe Wicks became the country’s PR teacher thanks to YouTube and online news consumption doubled. For communicators, this shows that people want authentic stories from people they trust
The power of networking and combining efforts was maximised over lockdown. We saw the NHS partnering with the Government, private hospitals supporting NHS ones, and local councils engaging with the voluntary sector as part of a local response effort. Similarly, companies supported their local communities by stepping up to help where they could. Working together collaboratively in the spirit of community will be a long-lasting legacy of the pandemic.
- Reaching all audiences
Effective communication that reached all members of society was vital in order to allow important public health messaging to get to the most affected groups. Special campaigns were developed to reach marginalised groups, including the use of influencers on TikTok and ensuring materials were translated into multiple languages. Learnings from reaching and engaging with all audiences during the pandemic have established a new standard for communication to ensure all relevant audiences are considered.
- Dealing with disinformation
Disinformation was a critical issue during the Covid-19 crisis. The Government created a rapid response unit to work with social media platforms to tackle the issue and tech companies removed harmful content and ensured that public health campaigns were promoted through reliable sources. Businesses, such as supermarkets, needed to carefully manage disinformation that led to product shortages. Tackling all aspects of disinformation online will continue to be a priority for organisations and businesses as we move forward.
Organisations of all sizes have realised how fundamental good communication is, having had to demonstrate agility, innovation and efficacy over the pandemic. Some of our clients have shared their feedback about working with us to support their communication efforts over the course of the pandemic.
Chris Feibusch, Director of Global Marketing and Communications for WesCom Signal and Rescue, says, “The ADPR team has always functioned as an extension of our own, but during lockdown and throughout the global Covid-19 crisis, they have stepped up a gear with the support they have provided. Far from throwing their hands up in the air in frustration, they have worked even harder to formulate and propose new and imaginative strategies to mitigate against the adverse effects on our business of the pandemic and to constantly look at ways of turning the many challenges we have faced into positive outcomes. Their work has stretched further than our core WesCom team, offering support and resources across the Group and throughout our global network of distributors and partners too. Their energy, positive input, hard work and support has been, and continues to be, invaluable.”
Dave Manasseh, European Sales Manager for Shakespeare, adds, “ADPR were (and still are) proactive in offering support and invaluable advice for the evolving pandemic. They were understanding in our changing situation and always efficient in considering the wider impacts, as well as keeping us updated on guidance and support from across the industry. We agreed on our communication messages and channels, and they helped us to effectively manage our temporary furlough period.”
What great communication did you see over lockdown? Share your favourites with us on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read something similar, why check out, ‘On a mission to make PR and marketing support accessible to all businesses’ or ‘Your Definitive PR Toolkit’. At ADPR we are passionate about driving business credibility, sales and awareness through the power of communication. Communication is critical to business success and when done well it is one of the most cost-effective ways to build trust for your company. Good communication will improve all areas of your business, find out more with our Confident Communication Planning package.
The Department of Commerce states that 70% of smaller companies go out of business within just one year of experiencing a crisis – we think this is enough of a reason to be prepared! Our Crisis PR 101 guide will give you the tools you need to develop a crisis plan that will protect your business when a crisis strikes. As well as the guide you’ll get top tips from experts to give you more support in building a futureproof plan for your business.