April 16, 2020

This is the Time for Thoughtful Communications

It’s been 86 days since the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the United States. In another 82 days we’ll be celebrating America’s independence, but many questions remain about how our everyday lives and careers will look in early July.

This week, we began to see a bit of what this future may look like when 874 publicly traded companies reported their first quarter earnings. Next week, nearly 3,000 more will report. Make no mistake: For most, these calls will continue to share difficult news and with ramifications that will be felt for months — if not years — to come.

Despite the uncertainty evident in this new “normal”, we do know this is a time for thoughtful communications.

Plan for how you’re going to reach out in the weeks and months ahead to a wide variety of audiences, which undoubtedly will include your families, employees, clients, customers, vendors, suppliers and any beneficiaries of your philanthropic engagements.

Allow us to offer a few suggestions as you continue those conversations and make the difficult decisions ahead:

Always lead with honesty

It’s perfectly acceptable not to have immediate answers—no one does. What’s unacceptable — and will lose hard-earned trust — is giving your word when you know you may not be able to honor it.

If business is suffering, let your employees know the steps you’re taking to improve prospects. This honesty helps them plan for not only their professional lives, but their personal ones, too. If you’re not sure when your employees will be able to return to work, tell them, but share the reason. If it’s for their health and safety, communicating that their wellbeing is of paramount importance can help soften the hardship.

Pick up the phone

Mobile phone carriers are reporting massive spikes in the number and duration of calls placed on weekdays. This is surprising to no one. Everyone’s calendars are packed with conference calls. However, this makes a personal, unscheduled call from you that much more meaningful.

Seek out employees at every level, customers large and small, and others associated with your business. Ask how you or your company can help make this difficult situation easier on them and if you can be a resource for any challenges their families may be facing. Listening and offering help where you can is the right thing to do and will strengthen already meaningful relationships.

Crises can make organizations stronger

When handled correctly, challenges create resilience and business focus. Untapped talent potential and resources are realized. Work-flow efficiencies are realized. And just as importantly, you are forging a powerful common bond as you endure this pandemic together.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hundreds of emails and dozens of calls you receive, write, take and make every day. Capture a moment to step back and assess your business, your team, your colleagues and your families and the future of all. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn. Let’s just hope we never have to learn these lessons this way again.

P.S. If you missed our earlier memos on caring for and staying connected to your employees and your customers, as well as positioning yourself to emerge strongly from this crisis, please check them out here.