For years, business executives have been searching for the right positioning and ways to communicate to their company, including on social media networks. Economic and climate crises have brought about a new form of communication – more horizontal and more direct – which meets the expectations of the public both in and out of the workplace.
Today, leaders are more at the heart of communication on various issues than they ever have been. This communication is necessary because people’s lives and millions of jobs are currently at stake. A human connection is needed too, and this situation actually results in the opportunity to reconnect to your audiences with sincerity, earnestness and hope. This is disruptive communication.
When you weigh the pros and cons of the next messages you convey internally or externally, do not forget: if you are speaking about responsibility, often your own responsibility will set the tone of how others will face the unique issues we are facing. You must uphold this responsibility.
For two months, leaders (politicians in particular) have been able to multiply silences, uncertainties and falsehoods. It is, therefore, now a question of sharing reliable, positive and empathetic messaging in order to reverse a damaged line of communication with a tense and apprehensive public.
This guide will lead you down a safe and responsible path. Below are tips in order of priority that will help you prepare to communicate.
- Your silence is not helpful X COMMUNICATION
Do not default to ceasing communication because of a crisis.
Silence provokes anxiety. Your employees, your partners, and all other concerned parties are constantly waiting for positive information during the crisis.
Julian Hobbs, CEO of Siemens Financial Services (LinkedIn)
- Consistency X PRUDENCE
Do not be at odds with your business’ situation.
Your external communication must be easily understood by everyone. You are the voice of your company – it is crucial to be honest and transparent.
- Responsibility X HEALTH
Remember that safety instructions and concern for your employees’ protection take precedent over anything else.
During a crisis, the effects of leading by example are multiplied. The discipline of a leader is clearly displayed through words and behavior.
Victoria Beckham, founder of Victoria Beckham brand (Twitter)
- Initiative X LEADERSHIP
Take advantage of this moment to embody your business in a positive way.
As activity is declining, it is leaders’ responsibility to motivate, speak out and invigorate.
HSBC CEO Noel Quinn, via an online letter to the entire HSBC community or Rolls Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös (LinkedIn)
- A quiet force X PERCEPTION
Identify a few positive, clear and concise corporate messages that you also identify with on a personal level.
Answer questions like: what have you advised your employees to do? Any news from your customers or partners? What are the goals your organisation is trying to achieve during this time? What are your perspectives?
Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue makes a rare statement on Instagram
- Recognition and motivation X GRATITUDE
Remind your employees of your solidarity with them and congratulate them for their ability to adapt during this time. A chain of gratitude is essential for connection.
Everyone must come together to do their best. Gratitude has a ripple effect and continuously encourages others to do better.
Alistair Cox, Hays CEO (LinkedIn)
- Employees first X INTERNAL / EXTERNAL
Maintain a clear distinction between internal and external communication. Always prioritise internal communication and your employees first.
Your employees must be in-the-know. You must inform them first about any information that will directly affect them.
Alan Jupe, Unilever CEO via letter to employees (also shared on LinkedIn)
- Be compliant X REPRESENTATION
If you publish visual content, ensure that it is in accordance with official health standards and guidelines.
Triple check that any images and all information you are sharing is factual and in exact alignment with that of government health organisations.
- Take a step back X PERSONAL VISION
Take a moment to step back from the crisis, your company’s sector and the economy. For once, do not hesitate to break from your corporate role to express yourself about subjects that are not always corporate.
Work culture is different right now. The relationship between personal and professional life is changing. You have the right to speak about the personal impact to you, your family and the world.
Ian McLaughlin, Bank of Ireland CEO (LinkedIn)
- Take the pulse X CONVERSATION
You are not just meant to be the messenger; you must also pay attention to reactions and impressions. This requires creating content that provokes conversation and that can stand alone so that it may be utilised by others.
The objective is to create common ground around a unifying message: resilience, support for those on the front line, and optimism. Others must be engaged and blatantly supportive.
- Visually engage X VIDEO
Choose visual content that attracts more attention, generates more engagement and conveys more feeling amongst your audience.
Body language can suggest confidence; smiling can convey hope and optimism. Use video if you can. If not, you can use a medium/long text audio format like a podcast.
- Take your time X DURATION
Time accelerates during the time of the initial crisis, but slows down during this period of confinement. You will be able to extend your speaking time and communications to mirror this trend.
Content that would typically be one minute long can be three minutes long. Make your 500 word piece 1500 words. More length gives you more time to leave your mark.
- Regularity X FREQUENCY
This is not a crisis that will last a few days or even a few weeks. Create a weekly communication, with a name and a stable format, that stresses your desire for connection and innovation during this time. Think outside the box!
There is an alarm clock feature on YouTube to remind your audience if you are speaking, as well as notification features on Twitter and other social media platforms to help engage and retain your audience.
- Build together X CRISIS EXIT
This time period will eventually come to an end, likely after several months. It is up to you to take on the essential role of repairing your business, and the world, for tomorrow.
Gymshark CEO, Steve Hewitt, announced their goal to reach a £175,000 donation target for the NHS on Twitter; making an impact towards helping our society.