It is time to activate Plan B: 2020 begins now

06/02/2020   •   Blog
It is time to activate Plan B: 2020 begins now

Everything will be a bit strange, challenging, and different than we imagined it was possible at all, but I believe that we will be better and more solidary as people, and the communication between companies and brands will be qualitatively better.

The key feeling of the previous months was the feeling of uncertainty. Related to that is the fear of things over which we have no control, and that includes family, business and wider social issues. In this period, the companies went through a period of complete unpreparedness and shock, to the establishment of some order in a state of emergency and extremely extraordinary circumstances.

From my point of view and the work of Chapter 4 PR agency, client communication focus was on essential topics: human security, especially internal communication, then solidarity and support for the national fight against COVID-19 and educational, external communication and information, with the cessation of most promotional campaigns. We were strongly active in providing assistance and donations where they were most needed. And then, when we were sure that the priorities were covered, we worked intensively on adapting business and communication plans to the new situation.

In short, the pandemic brought crisis communication to the agenda of literally all companies.

From a communications perspective, no doubt you are all first-hand witnesses of the value that quality internal and external communication can bring, helping people, companies and brands to be connected and engaged during a crisis and to think ahead.

In practice, crisis plans made a lot of sense. Although no one could have predicted a scenario identical to the reality of COVID-19, the mere fact that the plans existed and that we went through crisis team training with clients on a regular basis helped greatly to establish some control that provided everyone with security and hope.

No one knows for sure how long the virus will be present, or whether and when it will have its second wave. However, in the previous period, I think that despite the physical separation, we managed to get to know each other even better and, more importantly, we learned some important lessons about life, solidarity, business planning and communication.

What is visibly changing and how to proceed?

Now that the end is in sight, we are sure that some things can never return to what they were. The economic impact will certainly not be the same for all countries, not even for all industries. The spread of the virus has affected so many parts of life, so many people and companies that it represents a key point in history that significantly changes the way we live. The fear of infection will persist long after the virus has passed. The pandemic will therefore almost certainly leave a mark on the way people work, buy and socialize, significantly or permanently relocating the way many industries operate. Companies will be forced to reconsider their values, but also global supply chains.

In the midst of the second quarter of 2020, it is actually just beginning for many. The continuous flow of communication will serve to connect the external and internal links even after the crisis and to show the company's constant commitment.

Now is a good time to rethink the context of the communication plan. Through creative thinking and anticipation, many will try (and succeed) to introduce significant innovations through, albeit customized, business activities.

We expect the need to continue to adapt communication strategies so that both content and channels are relevant to the new reality and consequences of the pandemic.

As business begins to return to some kind of normalcy, internal communication will continue to be extremely important. This is the perfect time to remind our teams and employees of the company's mission and values, of business and social purpose. Link core values ​​to the company’s strategic imperatives and involve your team staff so that each individual is aware of how they can contribute to the group strategy. Communicate clearly, openly and often about the changes the company has made in response to the crisis or its end - and what is expected next.

Safety and security of the individual for the success of the whole

Numerous (new) challenges and issues follow. Resilience to challenges is what connects wholes, family, business world ... and in order to be resilient, we must be prepared.

By returning to work in your physical work environment, safety and security will have a new meaning. It is important to talk to people, motivate employees, and encourage them through their own example of communication through various channels. Offer a dedicated feedback channel where employees can share their thoughts and concerns.

Organizational communication will play an even more significant role in the second act of the age of insecurity. Just as some business leaders demonstrated during the crisis, a coherent communication strategy is key to alleviating confusion and providing support. I definitely advise you to consider your current environment and all market factors after the pandemic. It’s time to move on to “Plan B” and optimize, to be relevant in your messages and to provide real value.

Social media is also an important channel in a post-pandemic communication strategy for addressing external audiences, due to their fast, relevant and interactive nature and the opportunity to provide a fast and rational response mechanism.

The most important thing is to be active. Nothing is implied. You are needed by both your internal and your external target audiences. Show effort and a desire to maintain and strengthen the relationships you have. Be engaged in relations with the media and all other partners. Relationships are important, during good and bad times.

Everything will be a bit strange, challenging, and different than we imagined it was possible at all, but I believe that we will be better and more solidary as people, and the communication between companies and brands will be qualitatively better.

Author: Tamara Bekčić (the text was initially written for magazine Svet osiguranja)