How do we ensure effective communication in the New Normal?
With the virus still penetrating virtually all aspects of our day-to-day functioning, even the most experienced communication professionals have found it challenging to cope with the external stimuli dictating the way we perceive the rapidly changing world within and around us.
New health measures, constant adjustments, face masks, fear of human proximity, a seemingly endless vaccine discourse, a constant battle between what is medically advised vs what we deem to be right, seems like quite a bit to handle in such a short span of time.
As physical interaction and the “touchy feely” approach to other humans was no longer an option, finding a relatable way of communicating with others, whether professionally or personally – no difference, is and has been a task to ponder on and deliberate in layers unbeknownst to a significant portion of us. The ultimate goal was, however, clear. People had to continue functioning, relationships had to be maintained, and as Celine Dion so gracefully put it, both heart and life had to go on. How?
As a science so deeply rooted in all that is human, communication encapsulates both factual knowledge and shaded nuances, but is always in search of practical ways of ensuring that a verbal notion echoes to its intended audience. This task, as we could witness first hand during the dire times of the Covid -19 health crisis, was captivating the attention of companies in their brainstorming sessions on creating narratives that would yield the best response in any domain, whether departmental or HR oriented. It is a fact that the landscape for businesses on a global scale has been altered. Enterprises had to adjust their communication techniques both internally, within their teams, but also in relation to their customers. The need to cling to customers and stay connected with employees is greater than ever, especially when we take into account the absence of full-time monitoring. Although we have observed that financial losses were not an uncommon occurrence in the past two years, in a bid to maintain efficiency, stay relevant in their respective markets, and ensure that everyone understands the role they play in sustaining business, the communication budgets of companies, more often than not, increased. This was particularly handy for companies in their efforts to provide reassurance to their teams and customers in times of total confusion and uncertainty, even if it meant only giving them a semblance of life they were accustom to prior to the outbreak.
This brings us to a novelty brought by the pandemic, one that is coincidentally rarely discussed or emphasized. The adjustment to this new way of living also implied relying and trusting more. For instance, without a boss hovering above our heads, staying true to our work ethic and discipline was not without its challenges, whether we choose to admit it or not. No clear demarcation line between our private and professional lives, also made it nearly impossible for us to just be reliant and count on our own rational thinking. The fact that people would no longer meet to convey messages, whether delicate or otherwise, meant that we would have to learn to let go of some of our own reservations and choose to trust those with whom we interact. The sole process of bestowing a bit more trust in people, in any sphere of life, is always a bit scary, but necessary. In that respect, as a global society sharing this incredibly unique human experience, merely acknowledging the frailty that we carry with us, has inevitably brought us closer, in ways that we might not be able to fully comprehend yet. It is particularly in that chaos, in the hecticness of what cannot be fully grasped or understood, when we need adequate communication the most.
Although the catastrophic effects of the pandemic far exceed any benefits arising from it, one thing cannot be disputed. This adversity has allowed us to not only revisit the fundamentals of communication, but rather look into and go back to self – for ourselves. Oftentimes, the problem with communication stems from our assumption that communication, as we perceive it, is happening. Drafting a perfectly worded e-mail or explaining an abstract topic in a seemingly simplistic way, does not by default, mean that any communication actually took place. This is why we, as communication enthusiasts, continuously strive to be equipped with contemporary methodologies, allowing us to get new insights and perspectives in dealing with situations regardless of their nature or impact.
Strategist, as is case with countless other communication agencies both nationally, regionally and worldwide, was not immune to the winds of change that have directed our sails in new directions and uncharted territories. However, although the tides have yanked us in different ways, our horizon stays the same, the sails strong, and the mindset tame. During the second year of Corona inspired chaos, the Strategist team has come up with the following go-to communications tips:
- Be upfront – No one has time for beating around the bush any more. The pandemic clearly demonstrated that this translates into everything we do and how we do it. Time has become an invaluable currency, so it makes sense to adapt our communication to be concise, to the point and always respectful to others, but also ourselves. With our ability to stay focused taking a turn for the worst, co-existing with contemporary topics and delivering them in an easily digestible manner is of vital importance for any communication specialist.
- Get to know your clients – Really get to know them. Dare to ask that one extra question, in order to understand what makes them tick and why. This does not mean asking provocative questions or aiming for sensationalism, but gets you closer to the beating heart of any business – their story. In that process, we should always remind ourselves that our clients trusted us to be the promoters of something that is sacred to them and that, without exception, means delivering an authentic story. In that sense, when opting for a tailor-made approach, we have realized that no detail is small and it is exactly those ones that tend to make a difference.
- Keep the conversation going no matter what – let your team and your clients know about what is happening within your professional realm at all times. We must not forget that communication is not a one-sided process. Growth of any kind only happens when an interaction takes place, allowing us to tap into the shoes of another, embracing what might come out of it as a result. Practically, this can be done by creating customized channels that would centralize the information on topics that are of interest for both your team and clients, for example, one containing up to date Coronavirus – related news, which is indeed a great solution for preventing misinformation and rumors. Communication, especially during COVID-19 revolves around empathy, whether manifested in a form of providing updates to your team in these ever-changing times, or accentuating different ways in which you are helping your clients in keeping up with circumstances unfavorable to their business. Acknowledging that any organization is only as strong as the team holding its pillars, it is important that communication also comes in the shape of advice, comfort and optimism.
- Take a minute to be quiet – The more we think about it, the more certain we are that the ability to listen ought to be one of the top three desirable qualities on any CV. Knowing when to leave the stage and allow others to take the lead is nowadays indeed a rarity. Although we are those who have been given the task to communicate, it does not mean that we have to be those that talk. We have learned that allowing others to be loud(er), in no way threatens the validity of our thoughts or the righteousness of our strategies. Real understanding happens the moment we learn to accept that there are certain things that are incomprehensible to us and try to embrace them just the same.
- Be authentic – show your audience who you are. The multi-faceted aspect of communication is, in itself, a topic whose particularities are constantly changing and evolving. It is important to reiterate that, regardless of which client you represent, the narrative should always reflect values you adhere to, abide by and hold dear. The uncompromising truth is, there is no other you. In that context, communication agencies and companies should communicate the specific ways they take care for their employees and clients, while continuing to be unapologetically authentic in their creative expression.
In the grand scheme of things, Corona is likely to play a role of a seasonal character in our lives. One that we never really grew fond of, learned to tolerate, but are hoping gets killed off sooner rather than later. Still, a whiff of it remains somewhere in the shadows, to remind us about the lessons that needed to be learned.
That, we did.
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