Business Communication during COVID-19
You might refer to it as “these unprecedented times”, “the current situation” or maybe you just say “all of… this” while gesturing vaguely at the space around you. Despite signs of a slow relaxation of the rules, social distancing and lockdown measures continue to affect almost every aspect of our lives and COVID-19 remains a key topic of conversation for most of us.
Why is communication important for your business during a global pandemic? We now live, work and socialise in a more isolated way than ever. At first, Zoom quizzes and working from home were a novelty, though none of us imagined that it would last longer than a few weeks. We have since come to accept that we will be dealing with COVID-19 and its ramifications for months, and probably years to come.
None of us have ever been in this situation before, nor do we know exactly what will come next. One thing that almost everybody seems to agree on is that the world will not be the same – which is why communicating well and preparing for the future will be important in navigating the unknown.
Communicate clearly with your workforce
A health-based crisis, such as the one in which we find ourselves, has proven the importance of wellbeing in all of its forms. To keep staff safe, companies have implemented changes in their policies and safety protocols. They’ve likely sent out numerous emails updating staff on the current situation and put up signs and notices reminding employees to wash their hands, keep safe distances and wear their masks. This communication ensures that, one year into the pandemic, everyone knows what is expected of them.
Now it’s time to take this communication a step further. Throughout the last year, it has become clear that our wellbeing is very much dependent on each other and as restrictions start to ease, nerves may start to jangle a little That’s why it might be a good idea at this point to take a few extra steps to offer support to the people around you who might need it. Checking in with employees, and offering flexibility, understanding and guidance where necessary might all help to keep things running smoothly.
For example, make a point of scheduling regular video meetings with your team, where you take the time to simply catch up… no discussions about work allowed! The ability to conduct business meetings by video has been really important in this last year, but there is no doubt that they can’t replace face-to-face discussions. We have found that when we have an online meeting, we tend to only focus on the points on the agenda, and all of the seemingly insignificant personal conversations get forgotten about. However, at the heart of a happy team are the relationships that we have built with our colleagues/co-workers. In “these unprecedented times”, it is even more important to take the time to keep these personal relationships thriving.
You might also think about how your business can be helpful to the wider community. Brand values have increased in importance throughout the past year, as businesses have shown their customers exactly who talks the talk, and who also walks the walk. Some companies have offered support to local businesses, and some have offered support to the government and the vaccination rollout. Actions like this show your customers that you’re in this together – and often it leads to more publicity than much of your cleverly designed marketing. And don’t just stop doing those things. If you believed in them before, then continue believing in them.
Time to go online
To say we live in a period of change would be a massive understatement. On top of economic uncertainty due to the pandemic, there are also significant political changes, such as Britain’s exit from the European Union and the USA’s new President. To get through such a period of change requires us to swiftly adapt to avoid being left behind. This is the time to evaluate how your company communication has adapted to these changes and take the relevant steps, not only to make sure that your business not only survives now, but it also prospers in the future.
The world has seen a trend of businesses strengthening their online presence to continue trading during periods of lockdown or social distancing. Physical shops are focusing more on online orders, sit-in restaurants are offering take-away services, and a farm in Lancashire responded to financial uncertainty by offering people the chance to book a goat to appear in their Zoom calls.
If your business has the potential to trade online, then doing so could lead to increased revenue and additional business opportunities, making up for the loss of income endured during lockdown or physical trading restrictions. Not only does it offer you the chance to continue trading with your usual customers, increasing your online presence will allow you to target new markets, as online shopping trends continue to boom, and geographical location becomes less and less important. Nevertheless, if you’re unable to do business over the internet, you might still benefit from an increase in your digital marketing and online communication. Consider the sheer amount of time people have spent indoors over the past year, looking at screens and scrolling on their phones. Previously used forms of marketing communication like billboards, leaflets or pop-up shops in shopping centres no longer reach people in the same way as they did before the pandemic. You have to make the most of social media accounts, online presence and virtual events to keep pushing for a wider reach and to keep building your brand.
Use the tools available
Translation and localization can help you now more than ever. If you’re expanding your online presence, then the benefits of having your website and corporate content translated are not to be underestimated. A report by Nimdzi suggests that language is extremely influential. The study shows that 9 out of 10 global users will ignore your product if it’s not presented to them in their native language. This proves just how important it is to translate your content into any of the languages relevant to your target markets.
What’s more, consider the benefits of translation when communicating with your international workforce. To avoid misunderstandings and misinformation, ensure that communication with employees and team members all over the world is clear, consistent and empathetic. Especially if you’re delivering bad news.
We will always need connections and social interaction; we will always need to communicate with each other. Fortunately, the translation and localization industry is one that has always lent itself well to a remote work setup. A good translation agency will have a network of translators based all over the globe, which means that they can keep up to date with their working languages in everyday life. This is especially important for COVID-19 translations, as language related to pandemic practices is often very new and constantly evolving. Even common words have now come to mean something completely different – if I had asked you to describe a mask in 2018, would the image in your head have been the same as the one in your head now?
At the end of the day, we’re all looking forward to the end of the pandemic and a much-needed return to normality. But waiting around is not going to help – evaluate what you need to do and make a plan for adjusting your business communication to meet changing demands. Take advantage of the tools offered to you, and the possibilities of using the internet to conduct business globally.
About the author
Antonios Koutsounouris has served as Operations Director at Planet Languages since 2005. An accomplished linguist with extensive experience in localization and automation, he has helped countless brands thrive in the global market.
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