Covid-19: Elevating communications and uncovering opportunities
The Covid-19 pandemic has elevated the status of communications within organisations and revealed opportunities to enhance the way communications teams deliver their work in future.
This was the view from a panel of experts speaking at a PRCA Built Environment Group event on July 9th (full video of the event available here) where they discussed ‘Communications, the Covid-19 crisis, and what comes next’.
Our experts were:
- Max Curtis – Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association
- Drew McNeill – Head of Public Relations at the British Property Federation
- Jonny Morgan – External Communications Manager at Electricity North West
- Jennifer Riddell-Carpenter – Director at BECG
During a wide-ranging conversation, our panellists provided a view from the frontline of communications and shared their thoughts on government relations, internal communications, customer communications, corporate reputation, team management, and the future of work.
Jonny Morgan and Max Curtis reflected that the crisis has “elevated the role of communications” within organisations as the importance of effective internal and external communications has been highlighted in the fast-moving response to Covid-19.
They noted that Board and Executive teams in their organisations have placed communications high on the agenda, not least because of the crucial role internal communications played in ensuring business continuity as lockdown hit. Max Curtis said:
Because of the scale of what happened (with lockdown) internal communications had to come first to ensure colleagues still felt connected to the organisation.
Turning to the impact on day-to-day working life, several of the panel had discovered benefits from enforced remote working. While separated physically they have found that the immediacy of Zoom and other platforms, plus the shared experience of reacting to the crisis, has brought teams closer together. As Head of PR for a membership organisation Drew McNeill commented; “The transition to technology and remote working is enabling seriously positive change. Communications with other members is becoming broader and we’re reaching more of those members, more often.”
Jenny Riddell-Carpenter pointed to the accelerative effect of Covid-19, where campaigns and initiatives that would usually take months have been shortened into weeks. An example is BECG’s campaign for Communities that Work to reduce unemployment in the wake of Covid-19. A campaign that reached No10 and saw the Prime Minister adopt its ‘Opportunity Guarantee’ principles in his Dudley speech of June 30th, took six weeks from conception to these results.
Looking ahead the panellists agreed that the impact of Covid-19 and the light it has shone on the importance of community and frontline workers will result in organisations focusing more on their purpose and how they add social value.
For Electricity North West the focus on a green recovery will be critical, said Jonny Morgan, and for the membership of the BPF a key challenge is educating audiences on the role landlords play to support livelihoods and successful places, said McNeill. Jenny Riddell-Carpenter stated that only those companies that are “values-led” will thrive in the new environment from the point of view of stakeholder, customer, and team satisfaction.
The last word went to Max Curtis who believes that for his organisation, that was founded to house the Windrush migrants, there will be even greater focus on how his team communicates the purposeful narrative of MTVH. He said:
Good communications is about connecting what we do in our organisations to our purpose. Recognising the role of communications to connect (wider audiences) to that purpose is absolutely critical.
We look forward to the next PRCA Built Environment Group event in September and for more details on that, and other BECG news, you can subscribe here.