The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world in unprecedented ways. So how can communicators manage crisis communications during uncertain times? On September 14, IABC/Toronto hosted a webinar with four seasoned communications professionals on the lessons they learned, and are still learning, during COVID-19.
- Gillian Howard, VP Public Affairs and Communications at University Health Network
- Sophie Nadeau, National Media Lead and Executive Media Trainer at Edelman Canada
- Brad Ross, Chief Communications Officer at City of Toronto
- Jackie DeSouza, Director, Corporate Communications at Ontario Power Generation
When a crisis kicks off, it’s ok not to know everything. “It’s crucial to provide up to the minute information but also acknowledge what you don’t know,” says Ross. For DeSouza, communicators should find ways to inspire, inform and mobilize employees through leadership, especially through various channels, such as designated websites for updates.
Internal communication is key, but with a renewed perspective. Nadeau notes that “internal comms are actually external comms,” and employers now play a role in disseminating public information. “Communicate not with a lecture but share what’s happening and what you can do about it. What happens in the morning changes by the afternoon. It’s important to acknowledge fear,” says Ross. Crisis management includes an internal communication plan for communicating, training and connecting with employees to ensure an informed response.
Focus on opportunity and action. “When fear is involved, people don’t always listen. We have to focus on the solution,” says Howard, noting that challenges inspire creativity and innovation. All four speakers agreed that positive news rises above the rest. DeSouza kept her team motivated by encouraging employees to share and tweet positive stories and messages. Ross adds that it is important to share both credible information and good news stories.
COVID-19 is not over yet, but… we can always learn from our experiences as communicators. For DeSouza, communicators need to learn to trust themselves and be prepared to react. “Don’t let the information fester and have someone else tell your story,” Howard stressed the importance of a strong team. “No man is an island. It’s bad business not to have a smart team. We can’t give up on being creative and innovative.” Nadeau adds that communication professionals must focus on context. “Good, clear, and concise writing and communications are important. It’s not the time for fancy writing.” Good comms means continuously learning, contributing to the conversation, and getting involved in a meaningful way. As simplified by Ross: “Good comms is doing the right thing.”
Missed the webinar? The recording is FREE for all members or available for purchase to non-members. Please click the link below to access the recording.
RECORDED: Tuesday, September 15, 2020, 9 to 10:30 a.m. EDT
Duration: approximately 1:40