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How to use crisis communication during Covid-19 (English version)

We are experiencing a previously unthinkable situation where everyone is a part of the COVID-19 crisis. Every company is affected.

At Great Place to Work, we want to contribute by doing what we do best: helping organisations maintain their employee’s engagement. In this article, we take a closer look at how organisations can lead using crisis communication.

We talked to Philipp Maderthaner, a communication expert specialised in crisis communication.

How do you view this crisis?

Many people feel insecure when dealing with a new type of virus that spreads this quickly.

The measures that are currently needed create discomfort and anxiety for many.

What this situation requires is a clear leadership. Leadership provides support and security during hard times whether it be for the country, business or within families.

Why is it said that crisis communication is more important than any other type of communication?

Communication is always key for all leadership and is especially important in times of uncertainty. If someone takes the lead in a crisis and informs and unites us it gives us a sense of security. Making clear decisions and communicating clearly in such situations is more important than anything else. But it is easier said than done. Those who are expected to lead others are under enormous pressure themselves and do not always know how to handle the situation (this is why so many fail).

For companies it is not just about managing the crisis itself, but also about getting the necessary communication out. What is your advice?

Entrepreneurs and managers must communicate clearly and genuinely with all their employees. That does not mean you always have to have all the answers.

Sometimes the answer is simple in that “we do not know but must consider any possible scenarios”. During stormy times, the captain is expected to be visible on deck and to regularly tell us what happens and where we are heading.

Employees are worried. Customers and suppliers as well. Rumours are spreading fast as well as opinions, and social media is doing its part. What is the best way to handle this?

There is extensive information from the government and its authorities. This is the information you should and can rely on.

Media also has a special responsibility. A scary headline will give them clicks, but unfortunately it only increases the worry. Factual information is required from all sides – from the government, the media and of course the companies themselves.

How can companies strengthen their employee’s confidence in their manager’s crisis capabilities?  

The answer is clear: decisions and clear communication.

Communicate often, even when you do not have all the answers. Your employees need a visible leader more than anything.

The crisis has had serious economic effects on companies. The worst affected are often the employees. How can this be best managed at management level?

Of course, this is a disaster for many companies. From one day to another all sales stop. The government does what it can with different support packages. Despite this, many companies must take the necessary steps to survive financially.

For companies that are not hit as hard financially, this can be an opportunity to focus on getting better, developing their products or services and investing time in welding the team even more.

Is there something positive about a crisis?

It is often an opportunity for the management to show their leadership skills. Managed right, trust, and confidence can increase during crises.

In this particular case, I also think that we have the opportunity to learn new principles, such as how we ensure that everyone works from home in an effective way. It is simply up to each leader to try to find the good in every situation.


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