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National Capital Chapter

Reopening? Or Just Thinking About It? Internal Communications is Crucial

By Denise Hart, President of O2 Lab

When you’re bringing people back into the office post-lockdown, nothing is more important than communicating well. Before, during, and after the transition, staff need to get up to speed quickly on all new protocols and restrictions to ensure a smooth, safe re-entry. They also need to hear from you as a form of reassurance that the company has a strong, well conceived plan. Effective internal communications takes smart thinking—and some of the same tools you use to market to outside audiences.

Here are some ground rules.

Choose Clarity.
This is not the time for vagueness. If you want to achieve your reopening goals, you need to be absolutely clear—word choice matters. For example, there’s a difference between saying “wear a mask” and saying “masks must be worn in public spaces where 6-foot social distancing is not possible.” Make sure your messaging is aligned across all communications and throughout all departments to eliminate any confusion or the appearance of disorganization.

Pick the Right Delivery System.
Think about which platforms you will use to communicate messaging around reopening. Take into account how staff are accustomed to hearing from the company, and also how best to achieve full coverage. Is an email sufficient? Should you also text? If workplace changes are complex, you should consider creating new tools, like a specific resources page on your website or intranet, or even a printed guidebook.

You will also likely need to put up signs in physical office spaces. We’ve created a lot of COVID-19-related workplace signage in the past few weeks, for both large corporations and smaller sites, so we are well-equipped to advise you on best practices.

Be Transparent & Keep the Lines Open.
Why are we coming back now? How do we know it will be safe? What will happen if a coworker becomes sick? These are reasonable questions, and if you have solid, timely answers, you are much more likely to get staff buy-in. Open and resolute communication will make people feel more comfortable. Your confidence in the organization’s decision making will go a long way toward instilling confidence as you communicate with staff.

And since people are going to have questions, it’s smart to establish from the start how best to get these questions answered, whether it’s designating a go-to person (or a team) in HR, or a creating a dedicated email address or web page.

Speak with Your Brand Voice.
Ensure that your communications are in-brand, easily recognizable as official company communications, and serious enough to achieve their purpose. Tone and tenor matter. A lot. If you already have a strong internal brand voice that communicates your company’s values, you shouldn’t have too much trouble setting the right tone. But keep in mind that people may have anxiety about returning to the office. Your messaging should acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, and express the company’s desire to keep everyone healthy and safe. By employing a familiar brand voice, you can reassure your coworkers that—even if it’s not business as usual—the organization is still as strong and vital as ever, ready to take on the challenges ahead.


About the Author

Denise Hart, President of O2 Lab and the Executive Strategist and Sales Director has worked in every area of marketing over the past 30 years. As a principal of O2 Lab, she is responsible for new business development, account management, marketing, and strategic planning. Denise holds a Masters’ degree in PR from American University and is an active member of Women In Technology (WIT) as Chair of The Leadership Foundry.

She is a past board member and 2008 graduate of Leadership Greater Washington. Denise currently serves on the Advisory Board of Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital. Denise was named the 2011 Change Agent of the Year for Leadership Greater Washington; WIT Champion in 2012 and 2014, a Women of Vision in Arlington County and an Influential Woman of Virginia in 2013; a Washington Business Journal Woman Who Means Business in 2014, and a SmartCEO Brava! honoree in 2015.