‘Suffering Alone, Together’: Communication Best Practices during a Pandemic

Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until ‘One’ comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. 

This is a brief summary of a children’s book, titled, “One” by Kathryn Otoshi that teaches the young readers about not just numbers, primary and secondary colors, but also the importance of accepting and learning from each other’s differences and capabilities, and how it sometimes just takes ‘one’ voice to make everyone work together – a valuable lesson that many of us ‘suffering alone, together’ can learn during this pandemic. 

The point to consider is that while all of us are ‘suffering’ in our own unique ways in this pandemic, we don’t necessarily have to do it alone. In fact, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you will find there are immense opportunities to learn from an individual, brand or even an industry around you; and incidentally the same advice will also enable you to successfully navigate through a communication crisis during this time!

So, here is what you can learn from different industries and sectors around you about communicating during a pandemic. 

Hospitality Industry: Acing the Grey Area between ‘Personal’ and ‘Professional’

One thing that professionals in any service industry — like hospitality — do best, is customer servicing. They understand that while ‘being professional’ is often synonymous to having a ‘proper’ demeanor and being emotionally agnostic, as opposed to being more ‘real’ and ‘humane’ in a personal space; but when it comes to communicating and reacting in a crisis situation, ‘being professional’ may in fact be counterproductive. At the time of crisis, it’s the ‘human touch’, rather than the ‘professional touch’ that can solve problems. One must remember that all your stakeholders involved in a crisis, are at the end human beings – who feel, see, listen and use all other sensory and cognitive capabilities before they react or respond. You may not always have the right words to communicate, right strategy to implement, but if you manage to ‘be human’, your chances of having the aforementioned increases. 

Stock Market – When something feels off, it is 

The one thing that anyone with absolute surety can say about the stock market is that there is no foolproof way of knowing whether your bet is right or wrong, unless you are mapping it in retrospect. More often than ever in a crisis situation, so many dynamic variables are involved and time is so less, that it is only wise to turn towards value-based decisions while communicating. Even if the decision later turns out to not be optimal, adhering to your values can save you from harm. Unfortunately, crisis is also a time when it can be hardest to stay true to your values, especially, if the crisis is at an organisational level. The two most important factors of an effective crisis response are teamwork and sticking to the organisation’s core values. Making values-based decisions can help bring the organisation and its teams together, and come through the crisis stronger and more unified than before.

Healthcare Industry: ‘Dare and Care’ Attitude is the Key 

Since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the one constant update that we have all witnessed is the relentless effort put in by healthcare workers in our collective fight against the pandemic. However, it is not just an enormous amount of empathy that enables these workers to contribute towards the larger good of the society, but also the capability to take bold decisions. Similarly, when it comes to crisis communication, while it is imperative to be empathetic towards all stakeholders and the situation at hand, it is also critical to own and take certain daring decisions for the long-term good of the organisation, brand or the individual/s involved. It is important that decisions are only taken once all the relevant facts and figures have been gathered, and a systematic situation analysis has been done. 

Sports Industry: When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’, even ‘illness’ becomes ‘wellness’

You don’t win a match because the best player is having a good day, but because a team collectively performs well on the ground. In any crisis situation, there are different individuals and teams involved who manage the communication process – whether it is your internal leaders, your public relations agency partners, influencer network or the corporate communications team. It is the collective effort of all these teams and individual that makes or breaks the handling of the crisis. Furthermore, an outside-in perspective can also provide clarity and help in taking a more objective decision, and respond with the right sentiment or messaging. 

When a crisis hits, it is not about good vs bad, but how you can manage the ‘bad’ and restrain it from turning into the ‘worst’. A simple solution is to have a collaborated and schematic approach towards handling the crisis, and trusting your ecosystem to assist you in building a robust communication strategy and plan. Learning from one another, will only help in sharpening your messaging and devising the right communication strategy. All you need to remember is the power of ‘one’!

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

Abhilasha Gupta
Head – Global Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Tech Mahindra
An experienced communication professional with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and digital services industry, Abhilasha is skilled in strategic communication, public relations, crisis communication, and corporate affairs. She is a double postgraduate in English Journalism and English Literature from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi (where she was all India top rank holder), and Hindu College (University of Delhi), respectively. She is also a gold medalist in her Bachelor degree in English Literature from Ramjas Collage (University of Delhi). She has previously worked with HCL, The PRactice, NDTV 24x7, Hindustan Times, and The Pioneer.

1 Comment on "‘Suffering Alone, Together’: Communication Best Practices during a Pandemic"

  1. Abhinav Singh | July 24, 2020 at 3:08 PM | Reply

    Good read

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