By: Camie Melton Hanily, IABC-MN President
Our heroes today are health care workers, delivery drivers and grocery store employees. Many have made remarkable sacrifices to care for our communities during this COVID-19 pandemic, and we cannot thank them enough.
I want to thank one other group of professionals who are stepping up to help: our communicators.
As president of the International Association of Business Communicators for Minnesota, I’ve been on a number of phone calls with communication colleagues in recent weeks. Most want to talk with someone who, like them, is working long hours to help organizations around the world communicate during this unprecedented time.
On these calls, these communication counterparts at other organizations laugh…and sometimes cry. As articles have been noting, one key emotion many people are feeling right now is grief.
Some of my communications counterparts are mourning losses in their personal lives while also helping employees, customers and community members understand critical information about the outbreak and what they can do to safeguard their health. They’re writing executive memos, social posts, customer emails, employee letters, designing graphics and producing videos to help companies manage media, manage reputations and manage business under extraordinary circumstances. They’re communicating stay-at-home orders, work-from-home plans and social distancing measures. In addition – with the health crisis creating an economic crisis – they’re now communicating furloughs, layoffs and closing businesses, too.
It has been challenging, but essential, work. Dramatic changes in the ways we do business, and live our lives, require clear, timely communication – people who know how to use words to change behavior or create a common understanding in a company or community.
Communication professionals are playing an important role in this historical moment. They’re the ones who have always known how to write messages in just the right way, how to best get those messages shared, which audiences need to hear them, how to get their attention and how to measure results.
When times are good, some may view these professionals simply as polished writers. When we’re in a crisis, organizations of all kinds see just how impactful words and a solid communication strategy can be.
I truly believe those in this profession have already made a real difference during this time of uncertainty, and they’ll continue to have a big role to play down the road. Communication will continue connecting us during these days of social distancing, and the words we craft will significantly influence how people feel about the new world that we will all, at some point, walk back into. So, communicators, it’s O.K. to pick up the phone and hear how your colleagues are processing this pandemic, hear best practices and share proven strategies with your counterparts around the world. We’re having a common experience together and can support one another. It’s O.K. to mourn, too, but I hope – above all – you’re proud of your unique and powerful skillset as well as the important contribution you’re making.