Alastair Milburn, MD and founder of Effective Communication, advises on the trends affecting businesses because of Covid-19, and why talking to staff, clients and customers has never been more important.
2020 has been a year of change. The economy remains volatile, working practices have had to adjust, and will continue doing so for the foreseeable future, and the digital arena is more crowded than ever before.
This means all organisations have had to adapt to a ‘new normal’, and communicating – be it with staff, clients, customers, suppliers or lenders – has never been more important or relevant.
What has changed and what should you be doing about it?
Here at Effective, we’ve been monitoring trends during and after the lockdown period to help organisations identify where they should prioritise their communication, and through which channels.
At the height of lockdown, almost half of the working population was working from home and as the UK Government has found, people either like it more than they realised, or feel it is a more efficient way of working.
So, the WFH trend looks set to continue, with many businesses moving to flexible, hybrid models of working.
In the face of this enforced separation, the main challenge is ensuring your workforce is kept informed and engaged regardless of where they are working.
Remote working is a communications game-changer
With teams now working remotely, we are seeing more business leaders focussing (rightly) on internal communication, in order to share information with their teams in a practical yet positive way.
From newsletters to videos, internal communication initiatives are critical for top-down communications including formal and informal announcements, company updates and news.
And it’s not just a one-way channel; engaging and listening to staff is crucial, especially with increased anxiety over job security, and the wider social issues.
Where there is silence there is misinformation and uncertainty
At a time of such insecurity, how you communicate with your audiences – both internally and externally – will be key to how you survive and thrive over the next few months and years.
Remember that for the time being, silence isn’t golden. If people are isolated or worried, they will look to your organisation to provide reassurance wherever possible.
Difficult times ahead
How difficult decisions are communicated to staff and the wider stakeholder network is particularly pertinent right now. A recession and the end of the furlough scheme means that restructuring and redundancy planning are high on some agendas.
Although employment levels remain relatively stable and redundancy levels are currently lower than the previous recession, it is expected that one in three companies will make redundancies by the end of September. To avoid crises and to protect your reputation when delivering these decisions, preparation is key – from training to pre-approved statements and procedures.
Websites and social media channels have been neglected
With businesses under so many constraints, we have also seen that communications channels such as company websites and social media have been neglected this year, while organisations focus on other pressure points.
But, thanks to the pandemic forcing more and more activities online, there has actually been an acceleration in digital consumption, meaning that businesses who are neglecting their digital tools are missing out. UK adults are now spending a quarter of their waking day online, and that figure is only likely to increase in the future.
Investing time in your digital and content strategy will help you break through the white noise and make the most of this larger audience, something which will be critical for all businesses in the weeks and months ahead.
Although it comes from a very different time, Bob Hoskins’ sign-off line from the old BT adverts: ‘It’s good to talk’ has never been truer. Effective but simple comms planning is more vital than ever to make sure that in an ever-changing world, your messages continue to get through.