Why we need comms at a time like this
During a crisis of this magnitude, companies providing services like public relations, marketing and advertising can often be considered to be an extravagance. Understandably, brands providing goods or services directly to their customers and clients and unsure about the future feel that they have to devote all their resources, human and financial, to continuing to do that as best they can. But communications has an important role to play, not just during the crisis, but in putting companies in a position to succeed once it’s over.
Internally, there’s the importance of employee engagement. There’s a lot of evidence showing how isolation of any kind can generate feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as distrust and even paranoia, among otherwise healthy individuals. This is when fault lines in even the strongest company cultures start to show. And though brands have been incredibly imaginative in keeping teams together—through virtual drinks or team yoga or pub quizzes over Zoom—this is only half the battle. Clear, constant communication is the other. Through communication you can bring teams together but also inspire them to put in the extra 10 percent that might be the difference between success and failure.
Externally, you have an obligation to your clients and customers to let them know what’s going on. The businesses that have successfully pivoted to offer something completely different to the same set of consumers may not have been so successful if so many of them hadn’t invested in developing a close relationship with that group. But even those that haven’t pivoted can be telling their stakeholders that they are committed and able to provide the same quality of work that those stakeholders are used to. Uncertainty (and let’s face it: there’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment) produces a lot of anxiety and distrust. Communication removes that uncertainty.
But all of us want to be flying out of the blocks once the crisis is over. Comms is part of an infrastructure that allows brands to tell clients and customers, and potential clients and customers what they’re offering. What we’re likely to see are the businesses that survive this crisis having to waste precious time rebuilding that infrastructure and working on those important relationships that could have been maintained. That can’t always be avoided, but sometimes it can.
Despite all this, there’s no question that this is a really difficult time for businesses. Many are struggling. And it’s natural that hard decisions have to be made. But we believe that communications is not just a nice-to-have in an uncertain world, and one in which there is, more and more, a distrust of the faceless brand, and an expectation of humanity.