Along the COVID-19 crisis cycle of disruption, management, and recovery, important decisions have become part of everyday for CEOs and big decisions take courage. During the first phase of the crisis, business leaders formulated and activated their crisis plans to react to what was needed immediately. The management phase presented an uncertain wait and see phase with numerous corporate communication challenges for companies along the way. CEOs now need to take an assertive approach and explore how they can set their business up on the right trajectory for growth and recovery.
Business leaders need to balance the need to drive business performance with the need to be sensitive and considerate to maintaining business health. Therefore, leading with compassion and empathy is more critical than ever. The pandemic has turned everyone’s life upside down and different stakeholders now have different demands. Employees seek reassurance, shareholders want performance and customers expect ongoing service with additional safety measures.
“As the COVID-19 crisis persisted, business leaders across the globe needed to shift from initial reactionary crisis management measures to making longer-term changes.” explains Abdulrahman Inayat, Director and Co-Founder of W7Worldwide. “CEOs have been steering through changes in business pattern, researching new technologies and rethinking their marketplace to ensure they safely emerge from the crisis. Now is the time to review relevant communications, target media, brand purpose and market changes.”
W7Worldwide’s latest Guide on “Effective CEO Leadership to COVID-19 Recovery” sets out the 7 key steps for business leaders to adopt to achieve business recovery and growth. The report emphasises that leaders are under scrutiny right now and will be remembered for how they behave with their employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Before COVID-19, CEOs often struggled to understand the value and business relevance of corporate culture. The crisis has shown us that a strong corporate culture ensures loyalty to the brand and company that can withstand a crisis.
Internal communications messaging needs to evolve from business survival to recovery. Business performance and operational strategies have been severely affected by COVID-19. CEOs need to engage in external communication and stakeholder relations to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to them. Both the media and general public look to the most powerful businesses and their CEOs as a source of strength in the crisis. CEOs need to provide industry leadership by sharing their learnings. Informed education and actionable communication will benefit not only their own organization, but industry and the economy at large. COVID-19 is a crisis beyond the experience of most CEOs who now need to strike the right tone of caution coupled with realistic optimism and confidence.
The market, and society at large, is already starting to ask which companies will emerge from the crisis in the strongest shape. The pandemic will affect us for years to come and businesses have to prepare themselves to deal with the new normal. This means they have to start rethinking messaging, communication strategies and tactics in a new world where the old playbook has been rewritten. For visionary leaders, this period is also the perfect time to reinvent and reposition their business.