By David Ward, AEM Director of Public Affairs

Communication InsertCompanies have had to adjust their operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure their employees stay healthy and safe while maintaining production. As a result, they’ve had to also ensure fast, reliable, and open communication internally with employees, as well as externally with their various stakeholders – including their suppliers, customers, policymakers, and the media.

During a recent AEM Public Affairs Working Group meeting, several leading equipment manufacturers shared best practices about the new ways they’ve had to communicate in response to COVID-19.  We’ve taken their answers, distilled them, and have identified these top takeaways: 

For more information and resources on COVID-19, visit the COVID-19 section on the AEM website

 

Internal Communications

To be expected, companies are prioritizing their internal communications with employees. The number one concern for them it keeping their employees healthy and safe, and balancing that with the resources they need to continue their jobs, both on and off-site.  

In response to COVID-19, company communicators have done these three things:

  • Starting from top: Company CEOs and executives are prioritizing clear, quick and sympathetic communications to their employees. With so much uncertainty created by the pandemic, it’s critical to help alleviate fears by outlining what’s known, dispel any myths or rumors, and clarify the road ahead as the company works to offset any negative impacts. Company communicators have made sure that those same messages cascade down to people managers, making sure company leadership stays aligned, reducing chances for miscommunication or confusion.
  • Make it personal: In times like these, companies have rightfully identified that employees need an authentic, relatable voice that they believe in. Many company leaders have chosen to be forthright with their employees about the situation while also making clear their own personal challenges or concerns about the pandemic. Some of have even invited employees to submit stories of their own challenges, new activities or hobbies they’ve discovered, or recipes that they’ve enjoyed as they make more meals at home. Sharing these with the broader community shows other employees they are not alone in this, while giving them inspiration for something fun to do at home.
  • Diversify content: At first, several companies chose to institute daily emails at the end of each day to inform their employees about the latest updates as they try to make sense of the situation. As we begin to settle into “a new normal”, those messages have become less regular or have changed into a weekly letter or video message by the company CEO. Others have held live, online town halls with their employees to dive deeper into the situation and answer questions that they may have in a more engaging atmosphere.

Tapping Into Technology

To help with their dedication to ramping up internal communications in an uncertain time for many in the industry, companies are leaning into their use of several collaboration platforms that offer several benefits over e-mail.

Two of the most popular platforms are Yammer and Microsoft Teams. Both platforms are offered through Microsoft’s suite of services and can be accessed through both desktop and mobile devices. These platforms enable companies to share a message with their employees through a social media type of interface, allowing for community discussion and sharing of that content. However, Yammer is more useful for communicating about important issues and socializing messages amongst the most people in any enterprise.

Another important technology platform being used by companies is the free application WhatsApp. The app acts as a text messaging tool amongst groups with participants located all around the world. With the COVID-19 pandemic being a global issue, it has required company employees the ability to share ideas quickly across different time zones. Global communication is helpful if they want to share innovative ideas to help keep their employees healthy and safe in a quick manner.

Continue To Find Ways To Advocate

With the onset of COVID-19, local, state, and federal governments have had to institute many new laws and regulations limiting certain business operations or shutting them down completely. The impact of COVID-19 has also reduced demand for many types of products, hurting the financial outlook for many companies. That’s resulted in executives working to identify and advocate for policies that help them support their employees and keep their operations going.

Companies have also needed to proactively communicate about any known positive cases, to make sure governmental leaders know how big of an issue, if any, COVID-19 has become in their county, district, or state.

In addition to communicating through existing contacts in local, state, and federal government, many companies are also tapping into their association’s support structure and COVID-19 response toolkits. For example, many AEM member companies have identified AEM’s COVID-19 resource and information page as critical to navigating state and federal regulations and relief resources as they’ve had to respond to economy shutting down and setting plans to reopen.

Storytelling     

To help inspire, motivate, and simply share good stories during this tough time, many companies have prioritized sharing good stories about what their employees or companies are doing to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.  

For example, several companies have successfully identified personal protective equipment (PPEs) that they were able to donate to their local hospitals or healthcare providers. Others are sharing how they’ve repurposed their production lines to creating additional or new types of PPE equipment that will help those on the front lines fight the pandemic. These stories are especially important right now, helping lift others’ spirits as we continue to navigate this uncertain time.

If you have an idea to share, or would like to be added to the Public Affairs Working Group, reach out to AEM’s Director of Public Affairs David Ward at dward@aem.org

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