The Rise of Authentic Communications
How the ongoing pandemic has reinforced the importance of effective communications
By Ali Hasan Duaij, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications at Bahrain Islamic Bank
During times of uncertainty, emotions run high, and misinformation tends to flourish. Considering we are living in the digital era, combined with the proliferation of social media platforms and digital communication channels; messages travel faster than the speed of light, and news – whether fake or factual – tends to quickly go viral.
Well over a year has passed since the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic started, and the level of uncertainty and collective fear pales in comparison to when the pandemic first shocked the world at large. While there are plenty of places people can go to obtain credible information, in the likes of the WHO and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health website, which regularly publish updates and data on the status of COVID-19; we are still living in unprecedented circumstances. At the end of the day, we are facing a situation that is ever-evolving and changing day by day, and our daily lives are populated by decisions that require research.
We’ve had to adapt to working from home, deciding to travel now involves a calculated risk of where is safe, finding out what the isolation procedures are in the country you are visiting - spontaneous trip planning has become a thing of the past.
It is often said that that it takes a crisis for a company to truly appreciate and recognise the value of a strong corporate communications function. At BisB, while we have always had strong corporate communications efforts in place, the pandemic took it to another level and we pivoted our usual practices, and re-calibrated our usual topics of choice.
We went from communicating social activities and key updates about the Bank, to sending across continual awareness emailer on COVID 19 corporate regulations, reminding our staff to follow the guidance of the government of Bahrain. In light of a dispersed workforce, with some people working from home and others working from the office, we had to ensure our messaging was clear, unambiguous and easily understood.
Yet, our communications efforts went beyond COVID awareness - we became more introspective. We learned to communicate more authentically, and empathetically. We opened the floor to new ways of maintaining social ties so that employees felt less isolated. We hosted webinar sessions on mental health and wellbeing and maintained ties digitally hosting several ‘Majlis’ virtual events on key social occasions, including Ramadan and Eid; celebrating together on national occasions from of our homes behind the safety of our screens.
When it came to external communication efforts, we ensured that we continued to keep our stakeholders and local community aware of all our activities, be it the latest product or service we launched, or our latest CSR efforts, in the likes of participating in the #FeenaKhair National campaign, joining forces with the Capital Governorate to support the ‘Together We Care’ campaign or rewarding the Bank’s customers who were members of the medical teams working on the front-lines in governmental hospitals and health centres.
The fact remains that today the power, reach, and immediacy of social media have accelerated the pace at which events and rumours can move, especially in a crisis. For this reason, companies must ensure that not only their customers, but their employees are continually being kept in the loop, on Human Resource policies, any internal changes, and key highlights.
From a communications perspective, if there is one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it is that having strong corporate communications in now a requirement – not a nice-to-have. Companies must ensure they constantly and openly communicate with employees, as well as external stakeholders; to ensure lasting engagement and loyalty.
Ultimately, people are significantly motivated by their connections with others, and the workplace is fundamentally social. Never has it been more important to face things as a team, a united front, to ensure that our connections with each us other help us weather any storm.