Published - 30th March 2020
As everyone adjusts to our more limited horizons and starts to learn the working habits of their nearest and dearest, the world feels very different from the one we’re used to living in.
Construction, like every other sector, is trying to quickly adjust to radically new ways of working at a time when some projects are more essential than ever – after all, who could argue that construction isn’t a key sector when there are hospitals and testing units to be built? But for many companies this is a time of uncertainty that is leaving lots of people, from sole traders to multinationals, desperately trying to find their feet.
Communication is essential at a time like this, proven by the clamour for the government to hold daily briefings and the way we are all glued to the outcomes of the Prime Minister’s announcements. While we know that communications may not feel like a vital business operation right now, stakeholders are looking for reassurance, and there are some principles that I believe will always hold true.
Don’t go dark
When things are uncertain, it may seem tempting to hold back your communications or even switch them off altogether. But rest assured, your competitors will not be doing the same and you do not want to incorrectly give the impression that your business has pulled down the shutters.
Instead, keep your stakeholders – internally and externally – informed as regularly as you’re able to. People are living their lives online more than ever at the moment, so put statements on your websites, keep issuing press releases, send out e-communications, and populate your social media channels. We all know from the 2008 financial crash that reputations are forged in difficult times, and the goodwill you build now will be worth a lot in the future.
Try to keep pace
This is an unprecedented time for everyone and people are hungry for information. With some vital industries needing to keep going and operate more efficiently than ever, supply chains are having to act quickly to keep up – that means that lots of people will be looking for details of stock availability, opening hours, contact details, and often simply whether companies remain operational. In these times, a delayed response is almost as bad as no response.
Ensure that enquiries on social media are dealt with promptly and as fully as possible – and be prepared for lots of questions! People are paying close attention to those companies that are being helpful, and those that are being a hindrance and you need to make sure you’re one of the good guys.
Do your research
The UK is a few weeks behind some European countries in terms of the effects of the virus on our economy and society. That means that we effectively have something of a glimpse into our own futures – for example, from looking at the Italian lockdown, could we have taken a guess at what how the virus would impact on the construction sector? This is valuable information at a time when lots of things remain uncertain.
Look out for news from outside of the UK as well as at home. Many industry publications are doing sterling work in keeping the construction sector informed, with sector-specific news that the mainstream press may overlook.
Overall, the message is to keep looking outwards, keeping communicating, and do whatever you can to support your staff and customers through this difficult period.
That way, they’ll still be there when COVID-19 is nothing more than an answer on a pub quiz.