COVID-19 Communications: Strengthening Your Approach as the Economy Re-opens

We are still in the middle of the global fight to defeat COVID-19. Managing the global pandemic is both a sprint and a marathon. So even while there is no way to know when the pandemic will end, economies are beginning to re-open.

The private and public sectors are facing the unprecedented challenge of protecting our families and loved ones while fine-tuning policies to get business going again. These adaptations have ushered in a new wave of digitization.

This year, despite the rise of co-working spaces and working environment redsign, everyone became remote workers. While this technological push has solved many of our traditional operational and communications challenges, it has highlighted new challenges. Remote workers can often feel lonely and isolated. Remote work can also have the unintended consequence of intensifying the workload, upsetting the work-life balance.

For those who are going into workspaces, social distancing and mask-wearing policies add to the list of ever-present stressors – the primary stress point being the risk of infection. Consumers also share this worry each and every time they venture outside of their homes. Against this backdrop, businesses and organizations must reimagine how they communicate with their externally and internally. COVID-19 has significantly altered the communications landscape for the foreseeable future.

In the face of this global crisis, organizations must now adapt or risk extinction.


Meet the people where they are


More time spent at home means more time spent on the internet and social media. It is time to fully invest in your social media presence and prioritize your digital community engagement and management plans.

Where can you find your target audience? What is your digital communications strategy looking like for the next few months? Do you have your content calendar loaded with authentic, high-interest, targeted content? Have you routed more money into your digital marketing budget? How have you crafted your brand messaging to connect with potential clients and customers during the re-opening cycle? The increased usage of the internet has created opportunities for additional touchpoints that savvy communicators are using to maximum effect.

This is not only limited to your customers but your employees as well. We have more ways to keep in touch with our teams than ever before (and more incentive to invest in communications tools than ever before).

Digital communications tools allow us to cut through the isolation and loneliness brought on by social distancing and remote policies. Employee engagement is more critical than ever. Don’t forget to reach out to your temporarily laid off team members too. The only thing worse than being temporarily laid off is not knowing if it’s going to become permanent. Don’t risk losing good team members to your more savvy competitors because of inconsistent or unclear communication – launch that internal digital outreach strategy ASAP.

Since the start of the pandemic, Open Current has helped public and private sector clients who predominantly relied on traditional public relations and communications channels to refocus their efforts on social media. The end-result has been higher levels of engagement and large increases in web traffic.


Safety Policy as Communications Strategy


Not sure what kind of messaging you should roll out first? Here’s a hint: most people need to feel safe when they walk through your doors. This is especially true for high-risk COVID-19 targets like the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.

Most organizations have made changes to ensure that their visitors and employees are safe. Be sure that your internal and external communications reflect all the efforts that you have made. This is priority number one in being a good corporate citizen during the pandemic. Clients and customers want to know that you value their safety. Your team members want to know that you care about them. Be sure to highlight your COVID-19 safety measures and policies and use safety-based messaging in your advertisements, marketing, PR, and overall external and internal communications strategy.

Formal emails, social media posts, and press releases are not enough. Website and social media visitors should immediately be aware of your COVID-19 safety policies. Signage is an effective way to remind employees and in-person visitors of your organization’s policies and best practices. Try to create as many contact points as possible for your internal and external messaging to take root.


Keeping it real

More than ever before, people are looking for businesses that are engaged in making the world a better and safer place. What is your brand’s purpose, and how can you convey that purpose in a way that connects to the current reality?

This can illustrated not just in through your communications activities but in the partnerships you form, the charities you support, and the culture you are cultivating within your organization.

The most effective tools for building trust are transparency and authenticity. The rule to follow here is: actions speak louder than words. Be sure that your actions align with your messaging. Where there is misalignment, your brand’s perception as being transparent and authentic will take a hit in a communications environment where trust is currency. This is not as simple as looking at what others within your industry are doing and copying it. You must understand your brand’s strengths and look for leadership opportunities that make sense within your context.

It is time to pull out all the stops when it comes to keeping your stakeholders informed. In this environment, you simply cannot get caught with your pants down. We do not know what the outbreak will look like in a few months, but we can prepare for potential changes.

Double down on your issues and risk management strategies and if you don’t have one, create it now. Your crisis communications plan should be priority number one. This is not only to respond to existing crises but also to set up the framework and best practices for future crisis responses through detailed scenario planning.

Reactive crisis communications can create delays, negatively impacting stakeholder trust. Once that trust is breached, even the most expertly worded statement will be undermined. Nimble organizations have an opportunity to stand out by highlighting confident, well-planned actions during the crisis – winning them new fans and building closer relationships with existing stakeholders.

A time for leadership

In times of crisis, people look to leaders for answers. Have your organization’s leaders been visible and accessible during this time? Have your leaders personally reached out to team members and those who have been temporarily laid off to keep them updated and offer support?

Whenever crises are unfolding, there is a tendency to withdraw into executive decision-making silos with the occasional, overly-formal message sent to the outside world whenever a decision is made. Effective leaders will communicate plans and plans-in-the-works across the entire organizational structure, soliciting input, and listening to their teams’ pain points.

At a time when internal decisions and communications (especially those involving bad news) often leak out to the public, it is crucial to have an integrated internal-external communications strategy designed to mitigate brand damage as much as possible.

Keeping this in mind, you can drop the cold, corporate jargon and deliver any not-so-great news as sensitively and humanly as possible. This does not mean that you should wax poetic about your personal life or draw false parallels between the experiences of the executive team and the entry-level staff. That would potentially elicit more eye rolls than cheers.

Our advice: Be real, be empathetic, and be substantive.

More tips for communicating during the re-opening:

Here are a few more best practices for your internal and external communications:

  • Communicate plans and decisions as soon as possible. Leaks are inevitable, and it’s best not to leave communications to the rumor mill.
  • Post your plans and announcements on every channel available. Your communications should be everywhere: the employee intranet, social media pages, walls, bulletin boards, and other surfaces, the organization website, newspapers, etc.
  • Err on the side of over-communication. Reach out regularly to all of your stakeholders—internal and external.
  • Internal communications are just as important as external communications. Budget your resources, time, and intellectual capital accordingly.
  • Like during any crisis, form an internal COVID-19 task force comprised of major decision-makers and representatives from every branch of your organization. This centralized approach will keep communications consistent and ensure that all departments have a voice at the table.
  • Plan and plan some more by putting together your company’s “red book”: Create a primary plan. Develop contingencies. Set up a decision-making template for unforeseen challenges.
  • Monitor your performance. The only way to know if your communications have been effective is to get responses from the people who have been impacted by them. Solicit feedback. Survey employees. Launch focus groups. Invest in market research and public polling.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing the blurring of lines between corporate reputation, crisis communications, and leadership communication – requiring an integrated approach featuring adaptability, authenticity, and purpose as the main priorities. Organizations that can rise to the occasion will find themselves primed for increased mindshare and brand awareness regardless of the changes in the public health and economic landscape.


At Open Current, we empower our clients to meet their communications objectives while overcoming challenges associated with the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and other large scale crises. We have a track record of delivering strategic communications and public engagement advice that unleashes our clients’ potential for growth in influence, reputations, and revenue. Contact us at

Author: Joey Gaskins Jr. is a Bahamian and graduate of Ithaca College and the London School of Economics with over 7 years of experience as a communications leader. He is a senior partner at Open Current.

Open Current © Copyright 2024. All Rights Reserved.