Prior to the novel Coronavirus, 60% of companies didn’t have a long-term strategy for their internal communications.

But around the first week of March when U.S. companies were implementing travel bans and sending workers home to telework in droves, the power and purpose of internal communications became increasingly clear. On March 18th, the Institute for Public Relations released a survey that found 81% of comms functions already ranked as “important” or “very important” to companies’ handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Moreover, the survey indicated that internal communications actually outranked external communications. Seventy-five percent of respondents said their comms function was “very involved” in communicating internally, versus 58% who said they were “very involved” externally. 

Here are a few examples of how internal comms has come to the rescue during this crisis:

Managing the “Triage Phase”

As early as January, multinationals began implementing cleaning procedures, closing offices and canceling physical events in Asia and Europe. This reactionary wave continued as COVID-19 hit stateside in early March. It was a dizzying and scary chain of events.

Internal communicators played a pivotal role in communicating sweeping changes, first-time policies and health/safety guidance to employees. A survey published by Edelman during this “triage phase” found that employers emerged as the most credible sources of information. Specifically, 63% of employees said they believed Coronavirus information provided by their employers over that from the government, a health company, or the media. 

Keeping Teams Connected

Once employees were safely teleworking and quarantine life had set in, internal communicators had another important function – engaging team members.

PR teams began deploying internal campaigns – from donation drives to virtual group fitness classes to kid-friendly activities, like this adorable video from ARPR client Quick Base. By bringing company culture to life and leaning into core values, internal comms have helped businesses maintain productivity and positivity despite uncertainty and distance.

Communicating Workforce Reductions

Sadly, the pandemic has resulted in deep, negative economic impacts. And – through no fault of their own – businesses have had to furlough and layoff valued team members. Working closely with their HR counterparts, internal communicators have gracefully navigated difficult announcements, morale impacts and reorganizations.

These communication strategies include amplifying executive visibility within the organization itself. In times of crisis, it’s imperative that corporate leaders are viewed as both empathetic and credible. This internal memo from Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian is a great example of how to be a human while still being a CEO. 

Internal communications is finally getting the respect it has always deserved. And while I certainly wish this “moment” was occurring under better circumstances, it highlights why internal messaging and engagement are critical, ongoing investments that corporations should make. 

For more COVID-19 marketing best practices, visit our resource hub, which is full of helpful content developed specifically for technology PR pros and marketers.

From business development to finance to HR, Anna Ruth wears many hats as CEO. But her first love is working with tech companies to guide their marketing and PR strategies.

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