By Sabrina Lavi | www.opentext.com
Sabrina Lavi shares how the COVID-19 global pandemic has permeated almost every facet of our society.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has permeated almost every facet of our society. Within days and weeks of the virus spreading, entire industries were grounded to a halt – hospitality, entertainment, travel and tourism completely at a standstill, as millions of people sought refuge in their homes. Nearly overnight entire teams, departments and companies began transitioning their workforces to work remotely – at a scale that’s never happened before. This instantly sent shockwaves throughout many organizations across the globe. Employees that were able to transition to remote working were tasked with quickly adjusting to working in close proximity with family members, children and pets, or learning to adapt to endless hours of alone time. While this massive shift undoubtedly put considerable strain on many IT infrastructures, it also greatly affected the way companies communicate with their employees and the public.
Internal communications boons
For communicators responsible for managing a company’s internal channels, a whole set of new challenges emerged – keeping employees informed, answering an avalanche of questions about using company tools remotely and looming concerns about returning to the office. Tasked with overcoming the sheer volume of these asks, while providing responses in a timely and genuine manner, many internal communicators have gone into overdrive, establishing new channels for regular updates via email, Yammer and weekly town hall meetings. Communicators across the country have been working tirelessly to ensure entire workforces are being kept informed on a regular basis and providing a forum for employees to voice their questions, concerns or share their stories.
Communicators working on the inside also began to work diligently to take the pulse of employees – conducting surveys, asking about their well-being, concerns and how best to stay informed. Analyzing this data and presenting it to those with decision-making authority is another area where the communicator stepped in, offering counsel, backed by the quantitative input provided by employees. Communicators gave employees a voice to share their thoughts to executives – a highly valuable endeavor that promotes a positive corporate culture, even in a time of great uncertainty.
The era of Teams and Zoom
Before the global pandemic hit, the number of people who had heard of Zoom or used it pales in comparison to its use in the present. Similarly, the use of Slack and Microsoft Teams has grown exponentially, with Teams now being utilized for its live document editing functionality, chat and video conferencing capabilities. With physical distancing measures in place and traditional office spaces closed, these tools have become a necessity, as they enable workers to connect with one another and collaborate in real-time.
For communicators, these platforms became vital for enabling the connection between executives, senior leaders and employees. Communicators began using these tools to livestream key company updates, taking the once in-person town hall virtual. The virtual town hall has allowed employees to tune-in and listen to company updates, ask questions and participate, changing the way we interact with our colleagues and company leadership.
Community engagement and social responsibility grows
Communicators continued to keep the wheels turning when it came to community engagement and outreach, galvanizing support for important corporate social responsibility initiatives to help give back to many local organizations, like foodbanks, hospitals and shelters. These efforts and the funds raised, gave employees an opportunity to contribute to local organizations who have been under financial pressure to provide care and tangible goods to those in their community.
Brand communications finds itself in the spotlight
Ask any experienced communicator and they will likely tell you there is no play book or previous manual to consult for a health crisis of this magnitude. However, without a set of procedures established for this scale of response, many communicators – from those just starting out to veterans in the industry – began to formulate ways to continue to tell their organizations’ stories with one very onerous caveat in mind – remain genuine and transparent without appearing overly opportunistic and insensitive to the sheer gravity of what was transpiring. Whether it was an alcohol manufacturer halting production of liquor in favour of creating hand sanitizer to fill a growing supply shortage or a technology company with the ability to provide technical resources for non-front line hospital staff to be able work effectively from home – all became important narratives that needed a voice. External communicators rallied alongside their company’s strengths to bring these stories to the forefront of journalists and key media outlets. Through telephone and video conferencing interviews, external communicators connected their executives with the press, offering insight into company decision-making, strategy and guidance during the onset of the pandemic.
Communicating for the future
Technology has propelled our industry into a new realm – one marked by increasing response, both to employees and the public. While the focus of the global pandemic is in constant shift, communicators will likely see their roles evolve, too. Some communicators may continue to take on business continuity tasks, community engagement projects, management of social media or human resource communications long after the pandemic has subsided. This global pandemic has brought increased awareness and demonstrated to business leaders just how valuable and important it is to have communicators within an organization. Regardless of what happens next, the news cycle will prevail, and employees will continue to want updates and resources to answer their questions as transition stages of return to work begin to take shape. As communicators, we are going to have to remain nimble and adaptable to these asks, while showcasing the power of telling a good story and keeping people informed.
Sabrina Lavi works as a public relations specialist at OpenText, one of Canada’s largest software companies. OpenText is the market leader in Enterprise Information Management and helps the world’s largest enterprises find value in their data. To learn more about OpenText, please visit www.opentext.com. By Matthew Collis | email@example.com Matthew Collis gives a variety of scalable solutions to internal communications pitfalls or roadblocks you might experience. Don’t overlook the value of good internal communications. Effective internal communication is instrumental in influencing employee engagement, productivity and satisfaction. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace, 85% of employees are […] By Sabrina Lavi | www.opentext.com Sabrina Lavi reminds us how internal and external communications should work in tandem with each other. Almost every corporation, large or small, has a communications team or, at the very least, someone designated to handle the content. This team or person may be responsible for generating social- or web-based content, […] By Vanessa Holding | firstname.lastname@example.org Vanessa Holding shares the five steps you should consider to ensure your content will resonate with audiences. The power of video is in its ability to condense information and get the main message across in a quick and visually engaging fashion. YouTube is now the place to watch videos […] By Ángela Colón | Ángela Colón outlines the many ways to improve meeting effectiveness and states that employee feedback is perhaps the most valuable and cost-effective to utilize. Have you ever been in a meeting that takes hours and realized that the topic could have been a 30-minute check-in? Or in a team meeting where […] By Felicia Empey, Editor in Chief for Communicator | email@example.com As we start the new year, many of us are setting out personal and professional resolutions for improvement. In the 2020 winter issue of the Communicator, we are looking at internal communications because sometimes the best and easiest steps for improvement are when we examine and […]
Delivering the news inside and out: Why internal and external communicators are beneficial for all organizations
Sabrina Lavi works as a public relations specialist at OpenText, one of Canada’s largest software companies. OpenText is the market leader in Enterprise Information Management and helps the world’s largest enterprises find value in their data. To learn more about OpenText, please visit www.opentext.com.