Guest blog written by Trudy Lewis, communications consultant and executive coach, CIPR Board member and one of the speakers lined up for CIPR East Anglia’s postponed 2020 Best PRactice Conference. Now, she writes, is a good time for communications professionals to look forward and focus on what’s to come and what shape it might take.
In this time, one of the things that heavily stands out for me is the fact that this crisis we’re in will be over one day. The challenges to stay at home and concerns for loved ones and finances are at the forefront of our minds. It’s also been hard for those who have lost loved ones, and in some cases, it’s been overwhelming, but we will get through this and life will go on even if it might be wildly different.
Despite this, I can’t seem to shake the sense that we have to look forward – and we need to start doing that now (if we can). This might start with a quick review of how well we managed communications through the crisis. But the focus will be on what’s to come and what shape the future will take for our industry and how we support organisations.
Many in our industry have worked incredibly hard to support organisations with PR and communications to ensure employees and stakeholders continue to be engaged. Not an easy thing when, for many, no crisis plans were in place and very few expected to have to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. Practitioners are to be applauded for their hard work and resilience, stepping up to get the job done, and I’m sure, or hope, that it has been appreciated by the leaders of these organisations.
There are a few things to think about as we prepare for when the immediate crisis is over and we have to get back to a sort of ‘normal’. The strain on our economy and the response that many companies have had to take will most likely result in extreme change. And this is what we will have to manage for quite a while. For some companies this will mean becoming more efficient and innovative, while others it will adapt services, make changes to staffing and take flexibility to higher levels as they fully utilise technology.
As we support organisations with these changes, getting communications right will be critical to maintain the reputation of the organisation or leadership both internally and externally. Here are a few things to consider that we as communicators will no doubt need to drive in the months to come.
- Work in partnership and develop relationships: Always aim to work closely with other key departments. This means building relationships and supporting HR, IT and key members of the senior leadership team. Make it clear that you are committed to collaborate to engage employees effectively.
- Listen: Develop your listening skills as an approach to engage with leaders to fully understand the challenges faced so you can support them effectively. This along with good questioning will give your leaders confidence to engage with you for advice and guidance.
- Develop business acumen: This is especially needed at this time, gain an understanding of the industry and economic issues being faced by the organisation and your leaders. It will help to position you as a knowledgeable and trusted adviser.
It’s important to remember that we are a time when internal and external communications have converged and in so many ways. Messages, especially to employees, should always be shared internally first. The worse thing would be to damage internal reputation and trust by not being mindful that news about changes should be shared with those impacted before it appears in a press release. Now more than ever I believe the communications we develop needs to be clear, honest and considerate of its audience.
So, despite the challenge of this time, I hope you will take a bit of time to think beyond this moment and prepare yourself by looking after your well-being and positioning yourself for change.