3 Things Executives Need to Know Now About Communicating in Uncertain Times

April 8, 2020

Communicating in Uncertain Times

You already know this is not a moment to sit back. As a business executive leading through challenging circumstances, you understand that showing up and being present is more important than ever.

Your employees, your customers, your shareholders, and the broader community of stakeholders in your organization expect to hear how you are keeping people safe during the pandemic, how you’re providing continuity in a stricken economy, and how you are making sure your business is as strong as possible when the time to rebuild inevitably arrives.

There’s an expectation you will address the pandemic and its impact on your organization. All industries have experienced an increase in discussing coronavirus, according to internal LinkedIn data. As the chart below shows, the IT and financial services industries are most actively discussing coronavirus and its impact.

While no one knows what the coming weeks and months will bring, one thing is certain: now is the time for business executives to lead by example, to communicate with purpose, and, to strive, as far as current business conditions allow, to deliver on the promises they made during better days.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you communicate with your stakeholders in a time of uncertainty.

Our new executive guide, "Trust in a Time of Uncertainty," provides a deep view of how to build communications during this time. Download it now.

1. You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers

Your stakeholders are anxious. They are worried about the safety of their friends and family, they are worried about their own safety, they are worried about the impacts of the pandemic on their finances, and they are worried about how long it will be before something resembling normalcy is restored. Chances are you share the same concerns.

To establish trust in a time of uncertainty you don’t have to have all the answers, nor do you have to be free of doubt yourself. What you do have to do is communicate frequently, clearly, and authentically. That means avoiding jargon and platitudes. It means rejecting a temptation to offer assurances that aren’t yours to give.

It means explaining what you are doing and why you are doing it in simple language and always asking one important question: “What is the purpose of this message?”

Arne Sorenson, the CEO of Marriott, offers a master class of concise and compassionate communication

2. Communicate Your Purpose

Your brand’s purpose will be put to the test by the pandemic and the attending economic, societal, and political fallout. Now is the time to prove that your brand’s purpose means something.

You can help ensure this by making sure your communications during this time are intentional and convey the concrete ways your business is putting actions behind its words.

These can be offers of assistance, gestures of gratitude, straightforward bulletins about changes designed to make your workforce safer or partnerships with organizations on the front lines of the battle against the pandemic. Rob Norman, senior advisor to GroupM, the world’s largest media agency, puts it this way:

“If we fight to only minimize investor losses, the consequential loss in other parts of the business and eventually to the underlying assets, will be catastrophic.”

ADP, a global provider of human resources and payroll solutions, highlighted its commitment to advancing employee potential by launching a webcast series to help companies protect their workforce and understand government policies.

3. Build Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

This crisis will pass. Business leaders should use this time to invest in the talent who will be there for the brand when rebuilding is job number one. It’s important to strategically and thoughtfully elevate internal voices now who can share the work of communicating during this time of uncertainty.

Encouraging your workforce to develop skills on platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, which offers more than 15,000 courses with dozens more added weekly, underscores your commitment to your employees in the face of uncertainty.

Building up new talent and skills serves to not only open the aperture for a more diverse collection of voices and experiences representing your brand during the pandemic, but it also allows for team members to nurture and build leadership skills that will be essential when the time comes to shift focus from navigating daily uncertainties to charting a clear course forward in a time of rebuilding.

To be sure, business leaders are confronting extraordinary challenges and shepherding their organizations through an unsettled landscape that changes daily, but they also have a rich opportunity to show what executive leadership and brand purpose really mean when they:

  • Commit to communicating authentically
  • Live their brand purpose
  • Invest in people and relationships

Communicating to your stakeholders during uncertain times is not easy. While we will all confront different challenges unique to our organizations, one truth is constant: We are #inittogether. Let us know how we can be there for you.

To gain more insights about how to drive valuable communication during this time, download the full version of the Trust in a Time of Uncertainty Executive Guide.

Additional information can also be found within this resource hub.

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