Moving forward and communicating in times of uncertainty.

Communicating during an international crisis requires a lot of consideration. Business as usual is not an option. But standing still isn’t either. Companies are tirelessly searching for ways to stay relevant. More than ever, current events and daily news define what companies can talk about. What might have been a good message a week ago, might not be appropriate anymore today.

Our colleague, Margaux Van der Velde, shares a few important reflections on how to stay relevant and be a trusted voice during these exceptional times.

Moving forward and communicating in times of uncertainty.

There is no going around the truth. Nobody was prepared for the pandemic that hit us in March. We didn’t know what we were up against when the first outbreak of the Covid-19 virus hit our country. We were told to start working from home for a week or two. Before we knew it, the whole country was in lockdown.

The virus has caused a lot of victims, brought a lot of grief, anxiety and uncertainty. Not only from a medical and human perspective. This crisis is also taking its toll on many companies and entire sectors. The greatest threat for companies is the uncertainty about how long this will last and what the future will bring. However, standing still is not an option. We have to prepare for what’s coming next and keep moving forward. But how do you move forward?

First and foremost, the reason why you want to communicate is more important than ever. What is the message you want to bring? Is it relevant given the actual circumstances? Why is it important to your audiences? If you decide to communicate as a company, do it with the right tone of voice and a message that has an added value. Your message should support your reputation, not damage it. 

There are three important things to keep in mind when communicating in these times. It defines how your audiences perceive you and how you will move forward out of this crisis.

1. Information is key. Be transparent. By now, you will have answered most of the questions your audiences (employees, customers, journalists) had. Make sure you keep them up to speed on how you are navigating your company through this crisis and how it affects them. Stay close to your audiences, listen to their concerns and be honest. Empathy is crucial in these times of great uncertainty, your audiences are looking for a reliable voice.

2. Be proactive and creative. Everyone is hit by this crisis. Most companies are suffering severe damages. Communicating about how hard these times are for your company is not the kind of message that will stick with your audience and move you forward. It’s okay to let your audience know how you feel but try to focus on what your company is doing to help tackle the virus and this national crisis.

How are you helping your customers get through this crisis? Are you reinventing your services according to the needs today? Is your company involved in a project to help the healthcare sector? Try to think of a way to leave a mark and offer valuable services to talk about, without being opportunistic. 

3. Everybody knows the problem, talk about the solution. Today, nobody knows exactly how long this lockdown will last and how we will get out of this. When will we be able to go back to work? When will schools reopen? Will people be able to get married this year? Will we be able to organize a roadshow after the summer or host a product launch?

 A lot of questions still remain unanswered and uncertainty is still ruling our perspective. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and wait. Does your company have suggestions on how to get out of this crisis? Do you have valuable information or expertise to share? Always keep in mind that we are in this together and your ideas might help or inspire others. So be a problem solver and keep a constructive attitude. Society can use inspiring contributors at this point.

How you communicate will stick with your audiences and defines how you move forward: be transparent, be proactive and be inspiring.

Margaux Van der Velde is a senior PR manager and is currently part of a corona eventsector taskforce. This taskforce was initiated by the Alliance of Belgian Event Federations (ACC, BECAS, BESA and Febelux) to navigate the sector through these turbulent times.