The challenge ahead: lockdown recovery communications
Organisations that get their lockdown recovery communications strategy right will reach full operational capacity faster, strengthen employee and customer loyalty and enhance their reputations among stakeholders.
Clearly this pandemic is far from over, but as the first wave abates and the breakdown of the blanket lockdown seems all too evident and the economic and social need to get back to normality takes over, the challenge for all of us grows.
What is becoming more and more apparent is that the very necessary measures that were so rapidly put in place to control the spread of the virus are the very measures that every business, big or small, must now find a way to navigate out of as we to make our way out of this lockdown.
The desire to get the economy moving, balanced with the threat of a second wave, and the pent-up need to get out and see our loved ones is felt by us all.
As the lockdown eases – albeit at different speeds and to different extents across the four nations of the UK – every business and organisation needs to understand not only, how do they get back to work, but how do they communicate that return?
The plans shared with businesses across the land are full of as many questions as there are answers and after being on hold for so long, suddenly there is a rush to prepare to welcome workers and customers back to businesses across the UK.
However, every decision to restart a business includes a myriad of communications complexities and risks and it is clear this is one of the most critical reputational issues of our time: combining the concerns of customers, suppliers, staff and the perception of the general public.
And yet many businesses are not considering the views, wants and concerns of those audiences. The media is peppered with stories of concerned workers who feel they are forced into dangerous situations, flooded public transport, lack of PPE and a concerned public who call out the perceived dangers they feel.
All businesses face three key challenges as they look to reopen:
- Compliance – governments, across the UK and more broadly across the world, are setting out different lockdown strategies and different social distancing requirements. Often these plans are vague, and sometimes for a reason: they want interpretation to fall to businesses, in the hope that companies get back to work as quickly as possible.
- Concern – all organisations are going to have to reassure their customers, the general public, employees, suppliers, and others, that they are doing the right thing, that they are reopening in the right way. The balance all business will have to strive for is how they encourage all their stakeholders to do the things we want them to do, rather than deter them with overbearing and fearful messages
- Change – businesses are going to have to adapt fast. In particular, the news, and often government briefings, are a mix of plans, aspirations, and views. Often a change in approach can come out of left-field, announced during an interview or a press conference, so firms need to be ready to adapt their plans.
MHP’s response to these is based on five elements:
This will be a marathon and not a sprint, lockdown is likely to ebb and flow with the waves of pandemic and businesses who get their communications right during this next phase are likely to build loyal stakeholders who will stick with that business for many years to come. Get it wrong and the damage to the reputation of and trust in your business will last long after the pandemic has passed.
To find out more, please contact our Lockdown Recovery team lead: Barnaby.Fry@mhpc.com.