By Jonathan Ireland, Partner at Lanyon Group
“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity” – a well-known quote from Nat Turner that seems more relevant than ever before amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
In the current context, of course, you could replace ‘confusion and clarity’ with ‘uncertainty and certainty’ or ‘panic and calm’. Regardless of the parlance, though, the result is the same. Good communication has the power to transform human outlook, sentiment, attitude, emotion and behaviour. Most importantly, it can provide a much-needed sense of direction – something which we all crave in these unprecedented times, be it from our employer, our political leaders, or senior experts in all things Coronavirus.
As experts in corporate communications, at Lanyon we’re ardent advocates for the importance of regular, timely and message-rich communication at the best of times – it’s what our clients pay us for. But throw in a global pandemic of an unprecedented scale and ferociousness, and good communication suddenly becomes even more critical in cutting through the swathes of anxiety-inducing speculation, scare-mongering and fake news.
So, what exactly does ‘good’ communication look like, and what steps should senior leaders be taking to maximise the impact of their communication to their internal and external stakeholders as Covid-19 continues to evolve?
Good communication is underpinned by a few very basic principles - ‘know your audience’, ‘get to the point’ and ‘get across your key messages’, for example. Further, in the context of a crisis, we strongly advise our clients to tell it all, tell it quickly and tell it truthfully.
Regardless of your sector or industry, or the scale of your business and workforce, every senior leader can rely on ‘the six Cs’ as a guiding principle toward good communication:
- Clear: Cut the jargon. Keep your language simple. Don’t blind your stakeholders with complicated legal or financial phraseology.
- Concise: Even centuries before 280-character Twitter limits, leaders like William Shakespeare recognised the important of keeping things short and to-the-point – in fact it was he who said “brevity is the soul of wit”. Don’t say it in 200 words if you can say it in 20 or, even better, in an infographic, an illustration or a short video.
- Consistent: This one is two-fold. Firstly, try to remain consistent in the style and language you use when communicating to a particular audience, always endeavouring to align with your corporate tone of voice and key messaging. Secondly, ensure your communication is consistent with the information published by those who know best. Don’t claim to be an expert on matters that are beyond your knowledge, skills or qualification. It has been amazing to witness the sudden rise in would-be medics, virologists and statisticians in recent weeks…
- Calm: Your role as a senior leader is to demonstrate leadership, provide direction and instil calm wherever you can. Paint a realistic picture, but don’t add to the panic among your workforce or client base by speculating, highlighting the doom and gloom, or leaning too heavily on the worst-case scenario.
- Compassionate: Don’t make it all about business and finances. Remember that every client and every employee, no matter how junior or senior, will have their own concerns relating to Covid-19. Endeavour to underpin your communications with a note of compassion and understanding – and don’t forget to thank your stakeholders, internal or external, for their ongoing co-operation, support and patience. You could be surprised by just how powerful a slightly softer approach can be in these times.
- Consult: Amid everything else, you aren’t expected to be an expert in corporate communication. A good leader will know when reach out and seek input from the experts – be it your Head of Communications or an external provider.
If you need help to bridge confusion and clarity in your organisation during the pandemic, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with either of our Partners: Katie Doran (email@example.com) or Jonathan Ireland (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The bridge between confusion and clarity