What the Coronavirus Means for Communications Teams

April 25, 2020

Alison Osborne | March 2020

As we’re in the wake of the coronavirus, we’ve seen it impact consumers and businesses in a variety of ways. Now that the virus has been officially classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, organizations are starting to switch to remote work vs. in-office experiences. 

Near the end of February, 8x8 put out a survey that gave some of the following data: 

  • 55% of consumers have cancelled travel plans and are having fewer in-person meetings;
  • 44% of full-time employees have seen the coronavirus impact their workplace;
  • 40% of employees are increasing their use of video conferencing. 

Before the coronavirus outbreak, a popular debate has been whether in 2020 we will be entering an era of remote work. Is it perhaps more effective than in-office interactions? Yet, now that the coronavirus is sending employees home, advocates for remote work are giving precautions. Yes, remote work is great, but only when you’ve learned to effectively sustain it. 

The biggest mistake an organization can make is expecting that employees understand how to work from home effectively. Without proper training employees can quickly feel disconnected and lack motivation. It’s the organization’s responsibility to make sure that the correct digital practices are put into place before making the transition to ensure that training is simple for employees. The founder of Ready for Remote, Gary Walker, states: 

“Companies who do not currently work remotely will struggle to sustain prolonged periods of remote work as they won’t have the culture, digital working practices, and daily rituals required to support virtual collaboration. Some businesses may think because they currently allow WFH days, they’ll be equipped, but occasional flexibility is not a comprehensive policy.” 

It’s crucial that the correct policies, resources, training, and overall processes are put in place and are easily accessible to employees. If not, organizations are running the risk of a more unproductive workforce. Adam Hickman, a Content Manager at Gallup, discusses how employees can suffer from workplace isolation which can disrupt performance by 21%. So it’s no surprise that this is a major issue needing to be addressed. 

How Communications Teams Can Deal with the Coronavirus

We’ve briefly gone over the current challenge that we’re facing when it comes to organizations, but what are some of the solutions and digital processes that can be put in place to curb this issue?

Video Tutorials 

When you’re showing a colleague how to do a task, messages can easily get misconstrued without sitting next to them. If you’re at home, try recording video tutorials. Simply record your screen and narrate what you’re doing to send out. At Origins Media Haus, we use video tutorials all the time to make our on-boarding faster and more efficient. We’ve found that it scales our workflows faster and saves a ton of time on follow up questions, since the tutorial is a resource that your colleagues can refer back to. 

Easy ways to create video tutorials at home:

Quicktime Player: 

Vidyard 

XBox Game Bar

Five Best Practices For Creating Video Tutorials at home: 

  1. Write down your steps BEFORE recording. This will help keep you on track. 
  2. Don’t try to be a one take wonder. When workflows are complex, sometimes it’s best to break up your tutorials into different steps so you don’t confuse viewers with a long, rambling video that has every step. 
  3. Be patient. Most of the time, you’re not going to get it perfect on your first go. Take a breath and slowly move through each step. 
  4. Clear is key. When you’re talking about the actions you are taking on the screen, try to be as clear and direct as possible. That way your viewers won’t be confused by a particular action. 
  5. Review your tutorial. Make sure to watch your tutorial all the way through after you have finished it. Think about the questions that viewers might have and evaluate whether another take is necessary or if you need supplementary documents. 

Newsletters

Newsletters are common for both internal and external communications. However, when operating in a remote fashion, think about increasing the frequency of your newsletters to make sure that your organization is updated and engaged with company news that they are missing out on. 

At home, it’s easy to get distracted and disengaged. Frequently hearing from work can supply some much needed encouragement to finish the last thing on your to do list. However, don’t overdo it. The biggest thing to remember here is VALUE. Only increase the frequency of your newsletter if you can provide higher value to remote employees. Otherwise, if employees are receiving information they see as irrelevant, they could ignore your newsletter all together. 

Voice Notes

An interesting communication tactic that came to our attention a few months ago is voice notes. Voice notes provide the convenience of a casual slack or text communication, but give higher emotional clarity and quicker response times. 

The biggest drawbacks of written communication is the time it takes to create the message and the higher likelihood of the receiver to misunderstand what you are trying to get across. On the other hand, phone calls can go awry and get off track, especially when you can’t see that colleague that sits next to you everyday. With voice notes, you can click a button and send exactly what you would say in person, but due to the shorter nature of the conversation type, are more likely to stay on track. Remember, keep it short, this tactic could be a great timesaver. 

Podcasts for Remote Communication 

On the note of voice, podcasts are another effective digital tool that organizations can use during this period of increased remote work. Podcasts give organizations the opportunity to communicate efficiently with employees, at scale. One episode can be distributed to the entire organization and consumed by workers while they are doing other tasks. 

To ensure that podcasts are being used as effectively as possible, we suggest the following tactics: 

Remote Work Training Guide

Create a podcast series that outlines your company’s remote work practices in a clear and engaging way. Think of every episode as a new remote tactic that you are teaching your employees about. This gives them a resource to come back to if they forget or need a refresher on best practices. 

Frequently Asked Questions

In uncertain times like this, employees are going to have questions. Use podcasting as a way to quickly communicate the answers to frequently asked questions to help ease the transition into remote work.  

Updates on the Organization 

Give your employees updates on company news. This can be focused around updates on what’s happening for remote work, but also general company happenings. By doing this, you’re keeping employees in the know while keeping them engaged with your company culture while they’re away from the office.

Employee Features 

Make sure your workforce stays connected and engaged with one another by doing quick features on different employees in the organization. Ask them questions about where they get their creativity, what inspires them, their tips for working at home, or even what keeps them motivated. These questions are designed to inspire and spark ideas for other employees when a watercooler or coffee chat is unavailable. 

Slack Etiquette

Whether you use Slack or another online messaging tool, we all know that conversations can get... off track. During your day to day, it’s important to use etiquette when communicating with your co-workers, things that you wouldn’t normally do in-person, but tend to slide when working remotely. 

The Do’s: 

1. Set Your Status 

If you’re in a virtual meeting, busy, or unable to chat, set your status on slack as such. That way you won’t receive messages from colleagues when trying to do other work. 

2. Be Selective With Your Time 

Create blocks in your calendar for individual work and let your colleagues know that you will be unavailable. 

3. Set Reminders 

Online messaging tools often integrate with the majority of productivity tools we use on a daily basis. Set reminders for task deadlines and virtual meetings to keep your teams performing their highest. 

The Don’ts: 

1. Answers Now!

We’re all guilty of this. We have a question and think we need the answer immediately. When we’re in the office and there’s a physical barrier between us and a colleague, it’s easier to accept that we need to wait for their answer. Meanwhile, behind a screen, it’s tempting to message someone, even if their status is set to busy. Trust that your colleagues will get back to you in a timely manner and respect the boundaries that they set.

2. Spam

When someone doesn’t answer you immediately, keep your cool. If it’s not urgent, give them at least an hour to respond before sending several messages, tagging them, or calling them. 

Other Helpful Apps 

Project Management

Communication

File Sharing and Workspace Collaboration

Project Feedback 

(If you’re an agency like us, then these are super helpful for internal reviews and client revisions)

Dealing with a Pandemic 

Overall, this is an incredibly challenging time for many businesses whether small or large. As separation and isolation continue, people are looking for ways to feel connected and involved in a community. 

Obviously, being around other people produces more creativity and innovation, but since that’s not an option for many, we wanted to try to suggest some helpful tools or resources. If you’re interested in chatting more about using podcasts to boost morale and engagement while your workforce goes remote, please reach out! 

And to conclude, everyone please stay safe during this time! 

Platform
Price
Pro’s
Con's
Anchor

Free

  • Easy to use
  • Automatically distributes your podcast to major platforms.
  • Embed media player.
  • Great if podcasting is a
    side hobby
  • Very basic editing
  • Since it’s a free tool, you don’t have full control over the monetization of your podcast.
  • Not the right platform for people taking podcasting seriously
Buzzsprout

Free for 2 hours of content per month

$12 for 3 hours per month

$18+ for 6 hours and up

  • Very user-friendly
  • Caters to both long term and beginner podcasters
  • Advanced analytics
  • Easy distribution of your episodes
  • They measure their size requirements to hours not megabytes
  • Bonus: get a free $20 Amazon gift card when you sign up for any paid hosting plan!
  • Advanced features like dynamic ad insertion need some work
Libsyn

$5/month for Monthly Storage 50mb

  • Oldest podcast hosting site.
  • Easy distribution to major platforms and great for scaling once your podcast gets bigger.
  • Hosted over 35,000 podcasts.
  • An iTunes Podcast partner.
  • Allows you to publish your podcast to specific directories.
  • Embed media player.
  • Price is based on storage
  • 50mb storage for $5 won’t be enough if you are publishing weekly so you’ll end up with a higher price point
Podbean

Unlimited audio package: $9/month

Storage space:

Unlimited

  • Great support & customer service features
  • Unlimited audio.
  • Pages are easy to customize
  • Can schedule podcast release dates.
  • Easy to use.
  • Uploads and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions are automatic to Spotify.
  • Embed media player.
  • Simple Analytics
  • Analytics aren’t as advanced as other platforms
  • Upload and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions take a day to change on iTunes.
  • Not an iTunes podcast partner.
  • The process to send a podcast to iTunes is more tedious. But, you will still be able to get on the platform.
Blubrry

Classic

$5/month

Monthly Storage

50mb

  • Podcast Wordpress plugin and management.
  • If you want to record a new introduction or conclusion, add in a sponsored ad or upload a new version of a podcast, it doesn't count towards your storage usage per month.
  • Blubrry allows a 25% storage overage each month
  • Prices are based on storage.
  • Usability is okay.
SimpleCast

Starting: $15/month

Recommendation: $35/month

Monthly Storage: Unlimited

  • Hosts your audio files no matter what the size!
  • Dynamic insertion for podcast ads or edits.
  • Incredibly detailed analytics including number of episodes completed and listener location tracking.
  • Embed media player.
  • Easy to use.
  • Great distribution! Easy access to all major podcast platforms.
  • Customizable podcast
    website.
  • Prices are slightly higher than other platforms, but well worth it especially if you have a branded company podcast!