As countries struggle out of Corona lockdown at differing speeds, there’s no end to the looming Covid-19 communication challenges.
For business, these communication challenges can look particularly daunting.
After you decide how to interpret and implement all the new regulations that apply to your industry, you and your colleagues have to explain how you’ll be working in the new world to:
+ Potentially bewildered customers
+ Nervous prospects
+ Lurking officials
+ Nosey blowtorch-on-the-belly questioning journalists
+ Frustrated suppliers
+ And possibly unsettled members of your own team.
Often this will involve communicating some hard truths about how things must be different now for health and/or economic reasons.
For example, those working in the hospitality sector in the United Kingdom need to implement new rules surrounding public drinking which, for those with long memories, often used to look like this.
Landlords and their teams can now expect robust conversations inside and outside English pubs, for example, as they’re required to insist that customers can no longer drink while congregating at the bar.
And they’ll have to ask them to sit quietly at well-spaced pre-booked tables after registering their names upon entry – and queue for toilets in a way they’ve never done before.
In the face of any resistance to the new measures, hotel teams will need to convey some unpalatable truths while showing empathy to valued, desperately thirsty customers who are well set in their drinking ways.
More sobering professional business conversations will be required across every other industry.
As you seek to work out the best communications approach for you and your company, you could do well to look at the communications heroes and villains of the Corona crisis so far.
You may wish to decide whether you need to build on that potential inner Jacinda inside you and your colleagues.
And in some cases, it could mean having to restrain or refine any potential inner Donald within your team who needs to lift their game when it comes to diplomatically handling delicate and unsettling new situations.
The good news is that handing professional conversations better – and giving great answers to tough post-lockdown questions – is a learnable skill… particularly to those open to learning it.
THE GREAT CORONA COMMUNICATIONS STAR OF THE SOUTH
Amidst the challenges of Corona, I’ve been running a competition on social media to identify the Great Corona Times Communicators.
After sifting through all the nominations, the most outstanding of the award winners – ultimately decided by the esteemed panel of one – was the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Jacinda Ardern demonstrates a splendid mix of profound empathy for her target audiences while embracing whatever tough-talking truths they need to hear and understand for their own good.
These qualities have been in evidence yet again this month, as Jacinda Ardern had to face up to a most unpalatable truth.
This was, after having celebrated leading her country to rid itself of Covid-19, that the virus managed a quick sneaky comeback thanks to travellers who brought it in after a trip to Auckland from Britain via Australia.
Embarrassingly, the Covid-19 carriers – who understandably wanted to rapidly visit a dying relative – were allowed to slip through the latest New Zealand health defence regime involving (when it works properly) quarantining and testing at government-supervised hotels.
Here’s the Prime Minister’s hard-hitting but carefully delivered response which made absolutely no attempt to hide the unfortunate realities – and, mercifully, gave no excuses either.
This is the kind of carefully thought out straight-talking which everyone running businesses could do with in your post-lockdown communications challenges.
THE NOT-SO-GREAT COMMUNICATIONS JOKER OF THE WEST
Of course, if you would prefer to avoid facing up to unpalatable truths, or find ways to deny unpleasant realities, other high profile communication role models are available.
For example, there’s a well-known leader who tends to communicate in particularly bizarre ways when things don’t make his record look good in an election year.
Embarrassed by the high number of people amongst his population who’ve been testing positive for Covid-19, one national leader took an approach with which Jacinda Ardern could never live.
He told an election rally in Oklahoma that the problem of the high numbers testing positive for Coronavirus was caused by the large number of tests that were being carried out.
Given that the World Health Organisation’s mantra for overcoming the Coronavirus challenge is “Test, Test, Test,” you might think that widespread testing would be something a government might take pride in.
But alas this isn’t the case in Trump World if you don’t get results that make you look good.
So the “solution” for this bad communication role model was to tell the audience that his officials had been instructed to “slow the testing down” in order to decrease the number of reported cases.
If that sounds hard to believe (it was for me), check out the video evidence here.
Afterwards the leader said his comment was “semi-tongue-in-cheek”.
However he then followed this up by denying that his comments were a joke, declaring “I don’t kid”.
If you’re ever tempted to take this zig-zagging seat-of-the-pants approach in your company on life-and-death Coronavirus matters, please lie down in a darkened room and call for a second opinion on my special helpline before it’s too late. 44 (0) 7944 952835
CORONA COMMUNICATION-BOOSTING AMIDST THE “VUCA”
Before Covid-19 descended upon us, many in business and beyond were already struggling with the challenges of rapidly accelerating unpredictable change.
This was summed up by the term “VUCA” – referring to all the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity which has accompanied the digital age.
But since the arrival of Coronavirus – followed by the tricky journey out of lockdown – we’ve been hit by what’s more like VUCA-on-steroids.
You could see it as VUCA-PLUS.
I’m now running communications-boosting Zoom sessions on how to convey your message in post-lockdown Corona conditions and communicate with all the VUCA-PLUS swirling around us.
Some of these sessions will be for business leaders’ groups such as MD2MD.
To prepare their members for the session, MD2MD has hosted an article on dealing with the communications challenges amidst the upsurge in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
CONVEYING YOUR MESSAGE IN CORONA TIMES – AMIDST INCREASING VOLATILITY, UNCERTAINTY, COMPLEXITY & AMBIGUITY
Communication-boosting sessions for individuals and teams can now be run, socially distanced, face-to-face – under certain agreed circumstances – either in well-ventilated, well-spaced indoor locations… or in the summer northern hemisphere sunshine of outdoor carparks and gardens.
Where this is not possible, communications-boosting sessions on Zoom, Teams, Google Hangouts or the telephone remain an alternative.
Indoors, outdoors, online or on the phone, sessions can move you and your teams that much further away from the unsettling Donald end of the communications spectrum and all the closer to the more uplifting Jacinda end.
Call the helpline set out above if you need to know more.