Business Trends

Communication During Crisis: 3 Bad Moves We Noticed During COVID-19 Pandemic (And What to Do Instead)

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It’s an understatement to say that we’re living through unusual times. The coronavirus has turned the status quo on its head and – to cite that old cliché – has undoubtedly brought out both the best and worst in people.  

The importance of effective communication on the part of business and political leaders has been highlighted again and again. While many politicians, CEOs, spokespeople, and others, have risen to the challenge, others have not. And many have taken to the media to backtrack and apologize.  

In this post, we’re going to look at some examples of where people got it wrong. And we will draw on lessons from our bachelor’s programs and MBAs to ask what they might have done instead.  

1. Sending Mixed Messages 

Example: Political leaders around the world, including Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Jair Bolsonaro have been accused of sending mixed messages, much to the consternation of citizens and commentators. Conversely, those nations that acted decisively, like South KoreaCanada, and many European countries, have received praise.

Most modern businesses and organizations communicate through multiple channels, including social media, email, media publications, video, and more. And this increases the risk of mixed, confusing messages.  

Part of the art of business leadership is coordinating all parts of an organization to deliver a unified, omnichannel message. Managers, entrepreneurs and CEOs need to understand and implement the foundational principles of effective communication when crafting their messages.  

2. Trying to Use the Coronavirus Crisis as a Commercial Opportunity 

Example: Subway has since apologized after one of its stores offered free masks to customers that bought two or more sandwiches. It was widely seen as opportunism and highly insensitive at a time when healthcare organizations are struggling to source protective equipment.  

Businesses need to be savvy during times of crisis. And it’s perhaps even more imperative to pitch offers and incentives to customers when a business is at risk from low demand due to emergencies like coronavirus.  

Effective strategic management that pinpoints external circumstances that may affect results (such as public sensitivity to opportunism) and, crucially, that involves simulation of prospective scenarios, enables businesses to determine the best approach to take during a crisis. Many companies have adapted successfully and limited damage as a result.  

3. Dismissing the Concerns of Staff, Business Partners and Suppliers 

Example: Airbnb has apologized and backtracked after telling hosts it would not refund any cancellations. And the CEO of Wetherspoons (the UK’s Largest Pub Brand) has refused to pay his staff, in spite of government aid packages, causing some to call for boycotts, which is never a good situation for a business.  

‘Human resources’ is a much-maligned and much-misunderstood term. It brings to mind images of drab offices where pen-pushers manage mountains of bureaucracy. But this couldn’t be further from the case.  

A significant part of Human Resources involves implementing proper processes for conflict resolution, especially during crises and emergencies. Specifically, communication processes should take into account legal and ethical considerations. Managing a company’s workforce is an essential skill in this regard

Furthermore, business leaders need to understand the mix of elements that intertwine to create a global economy, including local and global supply chains, the unique circumstances of suppliers and business partners, and the different national financial and legal systems. In the long term, this understanding helps to maintain strong relationships during difficult situations through empathetic and solution-focused communication.  

Learn the Right Techniques at EU Business School 

In these unsettling times, many students are uncertain about the future and their career choices. Many are wondering if they should pursue a job in business or set up their own company.   

At EU Business School, all our programs are designed to provide you with the skills you need to thrive in a rapidly changing business landscape, particularly when it comes to dealing with emergencies and crises. Take a look at our bachelor’s programs and our highly-respected MBAs to learn more.  

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