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Permanent communication in crises

By Andrea Lie Iwamizu

(Credits: Getty Images)

Navigating recently in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world and business environment companies, brands, and corporate communication professionals have been getting used to crises with faster cycles, many of them marked by relative relevance and localized impacts.

Globally, the crisis caused by the new coronavirus has demonstrated the importance of resilience and constant reinvention in the business world, and, consequently, in the universe of corporate communication. We are all now in a state of permanent crisis with all publics, in a new type of situation that does not affect “only” the reputation and image of brands and companies, but the very continuity of the companies’ businesses.

Right now, several organizations are rewriting their crisis manuals to (re)define processes that will be useful when dealing with previously unpredictable situations. Indeed, the global crisis of Covid-19 — which has lasted almost two months in Brazil — caught us all off guard, despite the predictability that a pandemic signals beforehand. Prior to dealing with communication, organizations had not considered changing the whole way in which their businesses operate and their relationships with their stakeholders. It was necessary to be agile, flexible, and focus efforts to deal, from day to night, with a new way of following.

The Covid-19 pandemic will still have many repercussions, in all aspects of life in society, business, communication, and specifically, communication in crises. In fact, it is already possible to anticipate some trends in communication, in addition to the total connection with the digital environments:

1. Internal communication gains even more importance in all organizations. Regardless of the nature of the business, engaging the people who will leverage the sustainability strategy in the storm and the post-crisis resumption is essential. Crisis communication must, therefore, prioritize internal audiences (although this is not new).

2. Crisis manuals need to be practical and lively. We no longer need extensive guides and printed volumes over 100 pages long! A crisis committee needs to quickly understand why to do it, to whom and how to communicate.

3. A spokesperson’s structure is essential. In a long-term crisis, with unpredictable developments, it is important to have several spokespersons prepared to act: the CEO will not always be the most suitable profile.

4. Individual inquiries become collective, so, more than ever, it is necessary to be aware of the general demands of society in a state of permanent alert.

5. It is essential to rationalize and have fewer communication channels. However, everyone has to be more assertive.

The five points above summarize the main trends in crisis communication. They will change according to the dimensions and speed that this major crisis will take – even if the “new normal” is to return to the same reality that we have always had.

Andrea Lie Iwamizu

Journalist, with over 20 years of experience in Corporate Communication and Public Relations, and specialization in Corporate Communication and MBA in Marketing from FGV. She also worked in the main outlets, and in recent years she has led teams in major communication agencies. She is a senior director of the corporate and crisis area at LLYC – Llorente & Cuenca since 2017. She has experience in communication consultancy, crisis prevention and management, audience engagement, media relations, and other corporate communication disciplines, focusing on large organizations and complex themes, involving legal, regulatory, and competitive aspects.