The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has severely constrained economic and social activity in all countries, creating a defining challenge for corporate leaders as they make plans to restart their companies and value chains, reengage their workforce and stakeholders, and renew the confidence of customers and markets. Much hinges on leaders’ ability to function as active, authentic, and trusted communicators. Events will unfold quickly, and surprises will be inevitable. Missteps will be costly.
Consequently, as companies map their actions over the next months, the underlying communication plans must be agile and capable of dealing with uncertainty. Leaders need cohesive, scenario-based communication and engagement strategies designed to maintain flexibility and to maximize their companies’ credibility with stakeholders through the ups and downs of rebuilding.
These scenarios should closely match the anticipated realities involved in fully bringing the business back online, including the many hard calls that leaders may need to make along the way and the significant behavior changes that employees, suppliers, consumers, and other stakeholders must adopt. Thinking all of this through in advance will allow leaders to respond to changing dynamics quickly and with confidence, and will give leaders foresight and depth in their connections with stakeholders, thereby reinforcing trust and confidence.
We also believe that the following principles—or a similar set of principles customized to reflect a particular organization’s unique values and context—are essential to shape the tone, content, and positioning of communications from leadership:
Although the months ahead are unpredictable, the intention of leaders to build back better is not. Executives face a critical agenda of tasks to reengage their workforce and stakeholders and to renew the confidence of their customers and markets. Using a communication strategy anchored in purpose and proactively built to respond quickly and effectively to different potential scenarios can help leaders remain effective champions of the future.