by Chas Withers

November 4, 2020

As all of us continue to navigate the uncharted challenges associated with COVID-19 – and the myriad ripple effects that are still evolving – there is one things we can definitively conclude: The way we communicate with each other will never be the same.

What exactly does that mean? If we look closely at the organizations that have successfully weathered this storm while still performing at a high level AND maintaining high engagement with their stakeholders, there is a through-line of strategic communications themes that stand out loud and clear. Both for short-term momentum and to set the stage for getting back into growth mode, standout companies have zeroed in on what seems like a simple set of standards – but, of course, the value derived is tied directly to discipline and execution.

A common denominator has been acknowledging the pandemic not just as a dominant disruptor, but as an opportunity to grow and improve. That may sound counterintuitive, but, when backed up both by message and substance, it has been a mindset-shifter that can pull employees out of the day-to-day vortex of COVID-19 into a forward-looking vantage point that can translate to innovation and aspiration.

The other communications cornerstones for transitioning from the inertia of 2020 into the dynamic of 2021:

Challenge frames change: Acknowledge the pervasive impact of COVID-19 but embrace the moment as a chance to accelerate positive change. Companies thriving in this environment have a drumbeat on communications emphasizing the importance of not letting creativity, innovation or improvement get lost in the morass of COVID-19 – manage for the now but plan for the next.

Bedrock values provide beachhead stability: It’s never more important to lean on your company’s core values (assuming they’re in place). Stakeholders want consistency, they value confidence, they’re seeking solutions, and – more than anything – they want to believe that they’re part of an aligned collective. Trust is always the most valuable currency.

Transparency, rationale and guidance: Employee-morale surveys during COVID-19 have consistently pointed toward direct, authentic and directional communications as the most critical element in fomenting trust. “Here’s what we’re doing, here is why, and this is what will happen as a result.”

Balance the message of me and we: Letting all of your critical audiences know that you understand and empathize their individual situation, while also helping them see how their efforts can create collective impact inspires action and collaboration. There are magic powers in the strength of teams forged under duress.

The dynamic duo of communication and leadership have never been more intrinsically tied to both surviving and thriving, and they’re the most powerful lever to point your people forward with optimism and energy – while getting unstuck from 2020.

This post was written as part of the Worldcom Confidence Index Annual Report. Dix & Eaton is a proud member of the Worldcom Public Relations Group.