By Shannon Bouchard
Since the beginning of the pandemic, government briefings have become a comfortingly regular fixture of our daily lives. Canadian governments of all levels have been very good about keeping the public updated. Even during self-isolation, the Prime Minister found a way to be visible in order to reassure Canadians.
There have been a couple of common elements that have made government communication successful:
Having briefings and press conferences every day provides the public with a routine to hold on to at a time when many usual routines have been upended. People tend to find routine comforting, and regular updates can also help counteract the feelings of fear of the unknown that many citizens are experiencing.
Keeping the message clear and concise makes it easier for people to understand. A short, clear message can also be more memorable—a great example of this is the Nova Scotian Premier’s “Stay the blazes home,” a phrase which has attracted quite a following.
People are afraid. Knowing that their leaders understand this and are doing their best to improve the situation helps.
The pandemic is still new. Government responses need to adapt quickly as new information comes to light. That means that what was said yesterday might not still hold true tomorrow. Acknowledging this helps to build and maintain trust.
It goes without saying that companies should be closely following government briefings in order to obtain the most up-to-date information, so that they can make any necessary changes to their operations. However, there are other potential benefits as well—companies can learn from government responses and get ideas about how to communicate with their employees and their clients. It is arguably just as important for companies as it is for governments to offer regular, succinct and easily understandable updates.
For employees, make sure that you devote some time to explaining the “why” behind any changes you have had to make to company operations. Employees are more likely to comply with directives if they understand the reasoning behind them. It is also a good idea to make the information easily accessible in a variety of formats, such as emails or newsletters, signs in the workplace, FAQs, etc.
For clients, focus on addressing their concerns. Anything your company is doing that will allay fears and increase confidence (such as heightened hygiene policies) is worth mentioning.
During the pandemic, it’s important to be flexible. Employees may need to take extra sick leave or work from home due to the virus—make sure there are plans in place for them to be able to do so. Clients may want partial refunds, deferrals or postponements—keep an open mind, and remember that good faith you show now will in all likelihood come back to you in spades once the crisis is over.
Finally, make it clear that you’re open to receiving feedback. Keep an open dialogue with employees and clients, and do your best to address their concerns. Bonus—questions you receive can help you build your FAQ page!
During a crisis like this, communication is even more important than usual. Making sure that all of the information you are trying to disseminate is completely understood by your audience is absolutely essential. A significant part of that is making the information available in multiple languages. People absorb information best when it’s in their own language, particularly at times when they are scared or anxious. Once again, we can look to governments as an example—not only have many of them made remarks in both French and English, but they have also had their briefings interpreted in sign language for the hard of hearing. OXO can provide you with consistent, professional quality translations that clearly transmit your message.
Particularly as society begins to reopen, communication will be essential to ensure that the return to normal happens gradually and safely. Let us be part of the solution!