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Jenn Morris Cannings Purple

A checklist for leaders to communicate through COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global humanitarian challenge that has triggered one of the greatest economic crises in Australia’s history.

The pressure is on Federal and State governments to lead the containment battle and, later, the recovery effort.

It is equally imperative for leaders across all organisational spheres – private and public sector, profit and not-for-profit – to act swiftly.

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This includes developing strategies to protect employees, customers and supply chains today with a view to tomorrow, to underpin the sustainability of your business.

As a leader, demonstrate purposeful leadership. Make sure you are part of the solution and ask yourself what you can do to assist the broader crisis.

Remember your position as a role model is to reassure and foster a connection with your stakeholders – internal (staff) and external (customers, investors, suppliers) – who will want you to act inclusively and lead from the heart, not just the head.

Be decisive in communicating the strategy without overloading your stakeholders with information that can confuse. Clarity of message is vital.

Look after your greatest asset, your staff. Reduce stress and opportunities for panic by offering support and supplying facts.

It is no longer business as usual so build organisational resilience. This requires you understanding your workforce and establishing the best possible working environment – not everyone will be able to work remotely but agility to this rapidly changing crisis is key.

Develop and execute a plan to communicate and support employees with information that is timely, up to date and, at a minimum, consistent with government-led advice. Update your website and include a dedicated COVID-19 landing page that also contains facts and advice from health authorities.

Given the level of disruption COVID-19 is creating and the uncertain outlook, it makes good business sense to set up a dedicated response team to help your organisation consider and choose plans of actions and execute what is needed. The response team should draw on all areas of your organisation and lead engagement internally and externally.

Remember to gain an accurate view of the pandemic’s impact on your organisation through a range of lenses and develop two types of actions – ‘right now’ and ‘strategic future’.

And be pragmatic with your actions. They must be implementable in an efficient way. A beautiful document means little if it cannot be actioned.

Do scenario and remediation planning to test current vulnerabilities and protect the long-term sustainability of your organisation.

What does your communications schedule look like if a senior leader tests positive for COVID-19? Or a member of your FIFO workforce? Or your supply chain breaks down? Or cash flow grinds to a halt and you must stand down your workforce?

The COVID-19 crisis will pass. Stay close to your workforce, customers and investors and keep open the channels of communication – even if your paths disconnect for the time being – to help your organisation be ready once the rebuilding effort gets underway.

Jenn Morris OAM is Cannings Purple’s National Director of Strategy and an expert in strategic leadership, business continuity and crisis response. Contact Jenn

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