Communications professionals, globally, are often left behind. Their work is frequently overlooked by the C-suite and other colleagues. But in times of crisis, the management does realise the contribution of the communications division. There are, of course, many businesses that truly understand the importance of comms and work to improve it.
The Covid-19 pandemic created an inspiring atmosphere in which the communications units had an opportunity to make themselves heard and applicable across the company in many companies worldwide.
The pandemic was an extraordinary crisis that felt like a doomsday. At the beginning of the crisis, everyone was afraid and had to endure enormous mental stress fearing an uncertain future. Sometimes, it felt like the end of the world, and there was no hope to remain alive.
When the pandemic struck, the need for effective internal communication became more apparent than ever. The frantic emails and texts we usually send to employees do not usually work, but they eagerly waited to receive and read those messages during the pandemic.
And they had good reason to act that way.
During a crisis, employees want to know how their organisation handles it and how affected the company is. This is why internal communication became so important during the pandemic. In a normal situation, people would turn to their supervisors for information. In the new normal, they looked up to their CEO and the management committee.
In return, most companies took extra care to keep the employees informed about the present business situation and the future. Companies also kept the supervisors updated on what the company was doing for the employees in a crisis.
CEO messages (videos on many occasions) reverberated throughout the company, and the CEO, him/herself, made regular calls to the people. CEOs ensured that they organised zoom town halls to assure the employees that they were safe and their company was up and running.
The CEOs tried their best to calm the minds of their workers, who were becoming psychologically wrecked. The majority were frightened, panic-stricken and were giving up on hope. Many feared that they would die.
The media felt like a deluge of virus-related misinformation, and the common people tended to believe everything. That was creating many problems, including psychological breakdowns. The internal communication professionals understood the situation and did their research to find the correct information from authentic sources, and then they disseminated the information among the employees regularly.
Those messages motivated the employees.
The internal communications function helped the employees to stay afloat. Messages from internal communication helped the employees to believe that the company still needed them.
Many had to work from the front, and many were assigned to work from home. Both groups wanted to know whether their company ensured their working logistics. If they could not contribute to the company's progress, they felt they might become irrelevant, and their company would no longer need them.
Internal communication helped us understand the needs of different audiences. For instance, a crisis can be an opportunity to build trust. Proper employee-oriented internal communications build trust and engagement.
Internal communicators worked in changing scenarios during the pandemic. The situation was changing every day, and something new was always there, which needed to be disseminated among the employees.
That is how internal communicators became important at that time. Usually, people do not read emails. Maybe they read some texts on their cell phone. However, at that time of fear, the employees read all awareness alerts on emails.
Some businesses made good plans but most analysed the current situation and communicated to the employees accordingly. Somehow an unwritten internal communication mechanism was in place in almost every business organisation.
The effectiveness of internal communications function during a crisis can be based on several factors. For example, the prevailing cultural values of the company are important. An effective employee communications strategy would ensure satisfaction. Furthermore, the communication strategy must be sensitive to the circumstances of the crisis.
The key to success was to be prepared for any situation, and the internal communicators were prepared during Covid-19. The state of affairs compelled them to be prepared.
The internal communicators were quite successful in that time of crisis. When we think about internal communication, we tend to think of top-down messaging. The other way round happened during the pandemic. The C-suite also listened to the employees and designed their action plans accordingly.
Internal communication is usually less glamorous than external. However, during the pandemic, it could secure a seat at the high table.
Ekram Kabir is a storyteller, a yogi and a communicator. He is just an email away: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.