Leading Communications for Increased Trust in a Crisis

Apr 24, 2020 | Public Relations

Brand building tips to protect employee and brand relationships

One of the many side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is a new age of employee relationships.

With the world in crisis, current and future employees are scrutinizing the decisions companies are making to keep the business, staff and clients safe and secure, while maintaining financial stability and social responsibility. At its very core, the response to COVID-19 should be authentically reflective of a brand’s value system, inclusive of respect and empathy for employees and customers in times of crisis.

The necessity of employee trust in the workplace is a given. When people feel protected and valued, they work harder. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees that feel respected and trust their employers are:

When companies are faced with a greater unknown, like a global pandemic, employees and customers understand that brands are being challenged in ways like never before and there may be missteps. To ensure forgiveness and grace, brands must know their value system to move quickly with decisive actions when an error in judgement occurs.

An instance of a brand’s corrective course during COVID-19 is when Shake Shack quickly returned more than $10M in PPP loans within 24 hours of the public outrage that emerged against them being a major corporation taking dollars from small businesses.

This is when foundational core values being ever present among leaders is essential to building relationships that will stabilize brands when the market re-emerges. It also presents an opportunity to gain loyalty and respect for decision-making among your employees.

What happens if you don’t prioritize employee trust during a global crisis?

Dallas Mavericks owner and investor Mark Cuban believes “How companies respond to that very question is going to define their brand for decades. If you rushed in and somebody got sick…didn’t take care of your employees or stakeholders…you were that company.”

Cuban gained global notoriety by pledging to continue to pay hourly workers at the Mavericks’ arena after it closed and advocating for the legislature to narrow the economic gap between executives and their staff.

On the other hand, as of late March, Instacart, Amazon and Whole Foods workers were striking for better working conditions and more safety precautions. Their public actions for employee safety are impacting national perception of the companies in terms of who wants to work and shop at those locations and it may have a long-term impact on their brands.

This is incredibly important because according to Forbes “72 percent of employees would consider leaving their current company if they displayed less empathy.”

How can you encourage brand trust in the midst of a pandemic crisis?

It is as simple as keeping employee and client needs in focus and leading with your brand value system. Be sure to incorporate and reinforce your value system into your communications throughout the organization, even when not physically together. Organizational values can be a common bond to rally employees at times when physical separation can create challenges.

By leveraging effective employee communications in the new world of social distancing, your brand will emerge stronger in the minds of your employees, thus motivating their interest and loyalty to your success.

With many companies operating remotely, employees may be feeling siloed. It is important that leaders are accessible, responsive and supportive. While working remotely, keeping your team engaged through video calls and similar tools is important to helping them feel like they are still a part of the team, even from their home office.

No matter what, remember the following priorities in your communications:

  • Lead by example with your core values
  • Provide virtual outlets for support, inclusive of reminders of what your vision for the future is for the company in your crisis management plan
  • Reward positive behavior
  • Reminder employees to take care of their own health
  • Practice communications and go out of your way to connect – reach out to frontline staff to check in and gather insights from those who may not have access to you normally
  • Check in on your managers to uncover any communications pain points to assist in them remaining connected to their teammates and direct reports
  • Streamline your communications processes and be understanding to the challenges that an employee may have at home
  • Be humble as a leader and put your needs last – always put your team’s health and wellbeing first throughout all of your communications
  • Communicate often and consistently

With daily updates from government and health officials on COVID-19 cases and frequent changes to social distancing requirements, it is important to be transparent with your employees regarding business decisions and future workplace adjustments.

A regular cadence of communications, centralized locations for internal resources and a way for employees to voice concerns are all necessary components to ensure team members feel included and prioritized.

Similar strategies can help build your relationship with clients and stakeholders. Proactive communications about working hours, new methods of communication or adjusted policies can help move client relationships from transactional to valued long-term partnerships.

As we collectively navigate this period of uncertainty, remember that actions taken today will impact brand perception into the future. Contact Gavin to develop or refine your brand communication strategies and a crisis management plan to ensure your brand comes out of this global pandemic unscathed.