There may have been confusion all around at the onset of the virus, but that’s not a luxury afforded to corporate communications. From day one, these professionals were tasked with articulating a plan to stakeholders, namely employees. The following recounts a few key strategies they used in the beginning and throughout the unexpectedly lengthy impact on business.
Chris Wyse, VP of Corporate Communications for Kimberly-Clark, stifles a faint laugh through the phone when Miller makes a comment about sales of toilet paper over the past few months. The virus, of course, was no laughing matter to the multinational personal care corporation that operates 90 manufacturing facilities worldwide — some of which are in China. “A global crisis team had been set up early on due to our mills in China,” said Wyse, “but as it became clear that things were accelerating, we needed a more robust plan.” Kimberly-Clark established what Wyse referred to as “very clean and clear communications.”
Vilma Consuegra, SVP of Business Development & Corporate Marketing at Acosta, implemented similar strategies at the onset of the virus. “It was a great time to reach out to clients,” Consuegra said. “We took the opportunity to publish relevant thought leadership.” Acosta, the full-service sales and marketing agency, partners with consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands and major grocery retailers to drive performance across North America. Acosta became a catalyst for industry conversations almost overnight.
Kelly McNeff, VP of Corporate Communications at Toyota Motor North America, had unique challenges to overcome from the very beginning: getting the organization’s manufacturing workforce, which covers 14 facilities, on one communications channel. “It’s been relatively easy to communicate with our corporate employees working remotely,” McNeff said. “They have laptops and are used to frequent communications. Our manufacturing workforce, however, sees that as an imposition. It’s been a much more difficult exercise to reach them.” To overcome that, the auto manufacturer uses a mobile app.
A leading developer of software for the public sector, Tyler Technologies went from asking its 5,300 employees to test their remote connection from home to asking them to stay home nearly overnight. They formed a COVID-19 Executive Task Force made up of the C-suite and operation group presidents, which included Samantha Crosby, Chief Marketing Officer. “We were meeting every single morning for the first three weeks,” Crosby said. “Then we moved to three days a week, then to twice a week, and today we’re still meeting weekly.” Over the past two and a half months, Crosby estimates the company has created more than 140 pieces of unique communications.
While communications strategies can be broad and vary based on a company’s workforce and culture, it’s interesting to note the similarities between these seemingly different companies. All of them leveraged senior leadership, worked to convey an authentic and personal tone, and used video as a primary medium, which is in line with a more human approach. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll reveal more similarities as we talk to additional companies about what they’ve learned and what they’re doing to get employees back in the office.
Libby Graham is a Creative Strategist at AvreaFoster
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