How to bring clarity to your critical communications strategy in 2021

Published: Friday, 18 December 2020 09:17

David Wiseman, VP Secure Communications at BlackBerry, looks at communication strategies in the context of organizational resilience and provides some tips for starting 2021 on a strong foot in this area.

The first step is understanding organizational resilience is to appreciate that it is a strategic capability that goes way beyond just crisis management. It involves learning from experiences and adopting best practices to deliver business improvement and building competence and capability across all aspects of an organization.

Almost 12 months down the line from an unprecedented global pandemic, during which organizations were forced to take a head-on approach to managing the crisis, this pandemic is now widely acknowledged as a threat that does not conform to conventional risk scenarios. For those who had an existing crisis management plan established they probably had a better hold on the situation at the initial phase, but many of these organizations are now struggling with the challenge of ensuring business continuity as the World continues to ride the wave of the pandemic.

Throughout the past twelve months, organizations have been required to rapidly provide personal protective equipment (PPE) that quickly went out of stock, abide to workplace safety and health compliance and declaration requirements, manage multiple national lockdowns and local restrictions; all of which have caused a multitude of business disruptions. While some organizations managed to experience only a temporary degradation of service delivery, others unfortunately ended up with permanent closures.
With a new year and hope for a vaccine on the horizon, organizations must continue to ensure their businesses are prepared and can adapt to (sometimes sudden) disruptions. Organizations need to continue to make provisions for their most valuable assets – employees and people – and maintaining business operations is a top priority.

For those organizations looking to start 2021 on a strong foot, an effective communication strategy is an essential component. Below are four important considerations to aid a successful transition to effective internal communications: 

Have an established process and secure mechanism to communicate with your stakeholders

Working from home is not a new trend, but the global pandemic has exacerbated the amount of people currently taking advantage of it. This has changed the way people work and for many their day-to-day routine will never return to what it was pre-pandemic.

Having a diverse and disparate workforce can further heighten the pressures faced by IT teams, not only in meeting the demands and needs of your employees but securing them and the devices they are using. On top of this, you must ensure your organization is able to communicate effectively and reliably in a crisis with its remote workforce.

But simply communicating is not enough in a crisis, ensuring all key stakeholders have received your message in a clear and timely manner is necessary for business continuity. Your communication process should also tell you where your people are and filter out information only relevant to them and their job. A platform that enables communication, connectivity and collaboration, backed up by the highest level of security standards to sustain business, will facilitate your success. 

Maximise on channels to communicate with your stakeholders

It is well known that people consume and digest information in many different ways, so ensuring your crisis communication strategy uses a range of different channels is crucial, and assuming only one method or medium is enough will be detrimental to your success. When establishing yourself as the central source of truth during a crisis, you must leverage all the tools and channels available to you to ensure the dissemination of information is reliable.  

If you urgently need to contact your workforce we often assume that email is sufficient as one of the most common forms of communication. But in a crisis situation you cannot always be sure that everyone has access to an Internet connection or their corporate email, or indeed there hasn’t been a power or network outage. Consider other channels in your strategy such as Apps, SMS/text messaging, radio, digital signage, and social media. 

Ensure you can account for your stakeholders during any situation

Being able to reach your stakeholders and provide them with accurate information in a time of need is the first step in your crisis communication strategy. But you must also be sure you can account for them, coordinate a response if necessary, and confirm they are safe.
An effective plan should include two-way communication channels. Having the ability to see where people are, and if they are safe, allows you to make decisions and take action.

Consider starting the year by introducing employee surveys or health checks, or sending out daily safety reminders to capture employee sentiment and get staff what they need to help with the transition or manage a critical illness outbreak. 

Networking with trusted community organizations is a must

Emergencies don’t occur in silos and having a network of trusted community organizations like local fire, ambulance, and health authorities will prove critical as we continue to navigate the different regional health guidelines and eventual plan for a full return back to work.

To keep on top of these relationships you must leverage the same best practices you have for your internal communications and ensure you can communicate, connect, and collaborate with these external stakeholders.
This trusted network will be a source of factual data that can influence your ability to respond to a situation, like an illness outbreak, or other threat that puts your people or other assets at risk. 

To build organization resilience and ensure business continuity into the new year, organizations need visibility over as much information as possible in order to make the best decisions for the benefit of the company and its people. Whilst this is no easy task, putting the time and resources into developing an established process and secure mechanism for communications will ensure that, come what may, disruption won’t spell disaster in 2021.

The author

David Wiseman is VP Secure Communications at BlackBerry.