Weathering a crisis through effective communication


COVID-19 has upended businesses spurring them to make sense out of the prevailing uncertainty. What this has also meant is additional responsibilities in having to assuage nervous customers and tense employees about what is the new normal.

How frank can businesses be? What should they communicate during these challenging times? How can they help their stakeholders make sense of the disruptions?

ET Insights spoke to business leaders across the country and gained a new understanding of how resilient we are and how inspiring leaders can be as they try to transition their organisations to a new normal post the lockdown.

Empathy and responsiveness can go a long way

During these uncertain times, it is critical that stakeholders are assured, informed and engaged. Being transparent will allay fears and keep negative sentiments at bay. “As a six-decade-old company, built on Trust as a cultural pillar, we will continuously assure and engage with our stakeholders,” says Pradeep Bakshi, MD & CEO, Voltas.

Organisations will do well to adopt and implement this three-pronged approach from Anil Verma, Executive Director and President, Godrej Boyce:

Inform – priorities, plans, decisions and progress.

Assure – safety, protection of the respective stakeholder’s interest.

Align – internal and external stakeholder energy towards meeting common objectives in the immediate-term.

Honesty is still the best policy

Companies need to be honest, and this has never been more important. To navigate this crisis, you have to be transparent so your investors, staff, board, and stakeholders are aligned on decisions and outcomes for the business to survive. Decision-making also needs to be swift.

Communicate the challenges the company faces and encourage innovative, out-of-the-box thinking from your workforce. Encourage your employees to utilise this time to do upskill/reskill so they can be equipped to help themselves and the company.

Over-communication is key to crisis communication

  • Whether it is your customer, employee or partner there’s no better way to express solidarity than through open, sincere communication
  • Check in frequently on your customers and other stakeholders. Sanna Vohra, Founder and CEO of The Wedding Brigade, says “With customers, it is important to manage expectations – especially around delivery and safety.”
  • Be the source of authority for your stakeholders
  • Communicate with your customers through your website, emails, and even WhatsApp
  • Keep them updated on the status of your business; especially your employees. It is important to share pivotal decisions and the rationale for these choices

Never has the need for over-communication been greater than now. As companies look to transition their workforce back to offices and open up businesses, communication will play a critical role in smoothening the back-to-work strategy for businesses.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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