The year 2020 has presented unprecedented and unique challenges for the entire world economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has been truly a global crisis whose ramifications and consequences affected not only one country, one continent, or one industry. In quick succession, we saw the introduction of new government policies, health mandates, and regulations to ensure the health and safety of citizens around the world within their homes and outside them. Every industry and sector of the economy had to adapt quickly to ever-changing protocols. Most important was the question: how do industry leaders communicate their messages of health and safety measures effectively across their different industries and what role can communications play in our global recovery?

While many companies already had “crisis manuals” and escalation procedures in place on how to deal with novel situations, nothing can compare to a global pandemic which has truly been a test of company resilience and the power of agile communications strategies. An integrated communications strategy has proven key to how companies are effectively managing the current crisis. During the pandemic, health and safety and employee engagement have been cited over and over again as the top key communications pillars and priorities for businesses. There is no doubt that these are only the starting point. How do you go about creating a globally coordinated approach to recovery and communicating this both internally and across all your brand and external platforms?

Strong communication is crucial especially when faced with hard decisions that affect all of your workforces. Employees may be worried about the future of their industry and the business, so clear communications and transparency are vital to maintaining a positive brand image from the inside out. Communications also need to be timely and frequent. Both the consumer and employee need to understand the facts around health and safety, what regulations are in place and how each company is going to look after them either at a place of work or at a leisure/business destination.

How and what we communicate has fundamentally shifted and will continue to be paramount in a brand’s successful return to normal. In the tourism industry, for example, which has been one of the most affected by the pandemic, attracting back guests with confidence, and reassuring them that airlines, hotels, and destinations are safe – not only from a security standpoint but from a true health perspective has been paramount. Communications now take into account a whole new set of requirements and this demands an effective communication strategy from the start, as this is now the only way brands can achieve brand trust and confidence with their audience and guests moving forward.

The importance of digital technology such as websites, social media, newsletters has proven and continues to prove a hugely valuable tool in communicating directly with any guest or consumer. Whether you are sharing details of health and safety protocols, new opening/closure timings, a shift in your offering due to new government mandates, all this information needs to be readily available, clear, and quickly shared and disseminated. Using smart data has been key for brands and communications directors to make their campaigns stand out from their competition, understand guest priorities and latest tastes, optimize investment, and understand guests’ spending habits.

This year has changed people’s desires, needs and capabilities so agile brands have tailored their communication messages accordingly. Expanding into wider digital channels as people have more time to use their devices, for example, the use of augmented reality. The pandemic has also changed for the better people’s approach to sustainability so brands have and will continue to balance and respond to changing consumer’s needs by developing products, functions and services that make discovering their brand and location easier.

One of the industries most affected has been the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector due to the grounding of flights, closure of borders, changing requirements for restaurants, and recommendations by governments to stay at home as much as possible. From day-to-day, we have seen governments place certain cities and countries into lockdown, impose quarantine restrictions, force closures of hotels, and limit flight routes due to lack of demand and the fear of flying. According to McKinsey, COVID-19 has reduced international tourist arrivals by 60 to 80 percent in 2020. Reopening tourism-related businesses and destinations, and managing their recovery in a way that is safe, attractive for tourists, and economically viable will require coordination from both the public and private sector at a level not seen before.

 

Join us on December 8, at 11:30 CET to hear more on the topic in the EACD FORUM. The discussion between Gloria Guevara, President & CEO WTTC and Federico J. Gonzàlez, CEO Radisson Hotel Group, will be moderated by Richard Quest, Anchor & Correspondent CNN.