A number of states have issued stay-at-home orders to residents, but without a federal mandate, communications about what this means is up to the individual state leader.
Governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois and Ohio issued stay-at-home orders over the weekend, though each have their own directives and timing associated with them.
Though New York issued its orders earlier last week, it has become the state to watch in terms of its communication strategy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has emerged as a competent and forthright leader, with clear, fact-forward press conferences including an organized presentation deck, and a relatable, yet no-nonsense delivery, instilling a sense of confidence in his constituency.
Similarly, several business executives have delivered on the premise of authentic leadership in their communication approach. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson delivered a public message via Twitter to his employees and stakeholders, despite his team expressing concern about the approach.
While many lauded Sorenson for his decision to forego a salary for the balance of 2020, the true leadership came from his human approach in delivering his message, which candidly outlined the negative impact COVID-19 is having, and will continue to have, on the hospitality business.
Likewise, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote to employees, “We are in uncharted territory. Much is unknown, and I know how unsettling and uncertain this feels. Like many of you, there have been times over the past weeks where it has felt overwhelming and all-encompassing for me.”
Earlier this month, Rachel Tipograph, CEO of MikMak, an enterprise marketing e-commerce platform, took to LinkedIn and published a note she sent to employees. She wrote: “Preparing for this shift the past few days was new for me as a leader. I reached out to several fellow founder friends, and heads of people at larger companies, to understand how they were supporting their employees. Since the wisdom of so many informed my approach, I'm sharing what we decided to do for MikMak employees in the hope that this helps other leaders navigate these uncertain times.”
Tipograph provided PRNEWS with tips for those in leadership positions, who may or may not be communications pros:
- Be human. Talk to your team in the same voice you’d use with family and friends. We are navigating uncertainty together, and you as a leader are likely operating from the same set of data points as your team. You can say things like, 'This is unprecedented,' 'This may go on for a while,' 'Things may get worse before they get better.' As a leader, you should also say how you’re going to try to make this manageable for your team.
- Mitigate as much uncertainty as possible by being proactive. As a leader, you have the ability to make a crisis less chaotic for your team. If you know you’re going to implement policies and procedures, do so immediately. If you’re moving a date, such as when people are returning to work, tell your team right away. People are comforted knowing information rather than hypothesizing what may happen.
- Follow through. Whatever you tell your team you’re going to do, do it. If you’re introducing meetings, get invites on the calendar immediately. If you say you’re going to randomly call people on your team daily, follow through. And based on your company's size, share the social proof of your actions at scale via Slack, Zoom, etc. Be accountable; otherwise you will lose trust with your team.
This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.