COVID-19: Credible and Effective Communication Management in an Exceptional Situation

Strategic Communications

May 4, 2020


The rapid global spread of the coronavirus presents companies with challenges of historic proportions. Few companies remain unaffected by the crisis. At present it is impossible to predict how long it will last and how much harm it will cause. In this situation, communication becomes a tightrope act, responsibly balancing conflicting priorities in an environment fraught with uncertainty.

While the health of employees and the containment of the pandemic remain top priorities, the financial and operational consequences of the crisis can quickly reach a scale where they threaten a company's continued existence. All stakeholders are affected: Society as a whole is deeply shaken, employees fear for their health and their jobs, banks and suppliers are increasingly concerned about solvency, customers fear for supply chains and share prices plummet – in some cases steeply. 

Because the cause of this crisis does not lie within the company itself, those responsible are judged solely by how professionally they deal with it. They have to make the right decisions under dynamically shifting conditions and escalating pressures in order to secure the health of their employees, the trust of their stakeholders and the continued existence of the company.

What are the communication challenges?

  • Management between a rock and a hard place: Consistent commitment to the health of employees requires massive restrictions in business operations – while maintaining production, distribution and solvency.
  • Communication in an uncertain and highly dynamic environment: Active communication is essential to ensure leadership, trust and team spirit; at the same time, making hasty, unreliable statements harbours a significant risk of losing credibility and trust – especially among employees, customers and in the capital markets – and being put on the defensive.

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