Communication in post COVID-19 world

The world has changed. Markets have changed. Consequently, businesses are changing. Communication strategies and practices also need to, and in many cases, it is already changing. As budgets either shrink or become limited, companies look to adopt measures of putting the money where the mouth is and also attempt to balance between the present and the future. They see a need to evaluate newer technologies to communicate, AI, Cloud, Analytics, even more rapidly now. 

Communicating with empathy

Both messaging and the manner of messaging have got deeply impacted by COVID-19. Communicating with empathy is gaining more ground by the day. A research report by a leading PR house in India, released in May 2020, pointed out that, for media houses, all beats are COVID-19 beats. Newspaper circulation has dropped but reading/viewing time has increased. People are spending more time online. TV and Radio are gaining more viewers and listeners respectively. People look for inspirational stories of struggle and triumph. They would like to know how leaders, brands, and companies are responding.

The recent backlash against a health brand when it promoted its new atta and bread maker product with phrases like, “are you allowing your maid to knead atta dough by hand?” and “her hands may be infected”, written on it, is illustrative of this. We are living in unprecedented times, and empathy needs to take precedence over everything else. Brand campaigns should not jar public mood.

Measure your silence

At the same time, keeping quiet and not communicating does not help. In the long run, silence has a price attached to it. One needs to know what that price is. Silence with external stakeholders may be acceptable in some cases. Silence with internal stakeholders is most certainly not. When there is fear and uncertainty, communicating regularly and in a transparent manner is key. Internal Communications is important and when the leadership team, not just the CEO, communicate the company’s messages, it is a force multiplier.  

We live in an era of social media. Reviews, comments, and criticisms tend to come thick and fast. Some stick out there in the online world permanently. The price one pays in such cases is heavy. It is important to communicate with stakeholders about how your company’s values and accountability are guiding your business. Everyone is facing real challenges. Those who choose their communication battles wisely and use empathy effectively will emerge with a stronger reputation and stakeholder relationship. Understand who is your real community is and what resonates with them. Segmenting your messaging based on what is relevant to your stakeholders is most important now.

It is also key to understand how what we say can be taken the wrong way. How can it be taken out of context? It is paramount to not provide contradictory, inconsistent, or inaccurate information. These can easily fuel fake news or rumours. Note the fact that humanity is in this together. All of us are impacted. Today’s perception becomes not just today’s but also tomorrow’s reality. Measure what you say and what you don’t.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Radha Radhakrishnan
Radha Radhakrishnan has over 25 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing across different industries and geographies. She has built a reputation as a storyteller and a creative thinker. She has mentored social entrepreneurial startups and has been a visiting faculty at premier communications institutes in India. She is currently the global head of corporate communications at Wipro Enterprises. She anchors the weekly PR and Communication podcast, Mrigashira.

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