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How to bring clarity to your critical communications strategy in 2021

18th January 2021
Lanna Cooper

If 2020 taught us anything it’s that an organisation needs to be able to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to pretty much anything in order to survive and prosper. The first step is understanding that organisational resilience is a strategic capability that goes way beyond just crisis management.

By David Wiseman, VP Secure Communications at BlackBerry

It involves learning from experiences and adopting best practices to deliver business improvement by delivering secure communication and building competence and capability across all aspects of an organisation.

Almost 12 months down the line from an unprecedented global pandemic, during which organisations 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 organisations are now struggling with the challenge of ensuring business continuity as the country continues to ride the wave of the pandemic.

Throughout the past twelve months, organisations 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 organisations managed to experience only a temporary degradation of service delivery, others unfortunately ended up with permanent closures.

With a mass vaccination programme underway, organisations must continue to ensure their businesses are prepared and can adapt to (sometimes sudden) disruptions. Organisations need to continue to make provisions for their most valuable assets - employees and people - and maintaining business operations a priority. 

For those organisations looking to start this year 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: 

1) 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 organisation 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 enable your success. 

2) 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 utilises 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 like Apps, SMS/text messaging, radio, digital signage and social media.

3) 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. 

4) Networking with trusted community organisations is a must

Emergencies don’t occur in silos and having a network of trusted community organisations 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 organisation resilience and ensure business continuity, organisations 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.

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