How COVID-19 changed (Internal) Communication

It is safe to say that the coronavirus has had its impact on society. The virus has not only spread through people but also through the newsIt is safe to say that the coronavirus has had its impact on society. The virus has not only spread through people but also through the news; it is everywhere. During this pandemic, communication has played a key role with its effectiveness and success differing per country and per person. From Irma Sluis to Donald Trump, we have all seen (funny) examples on how well or badly the communication turned out. In this article, we will go more in-depth about the role of communication during a pandemic. Monique Winkelman, Advisor Marketing and Communication at Rabobank Rijk van Nijmegen, shares her experiences on how they handled the crisis with the help of (internal) communication. Hopefully, this year we can all turn to a new page and let the virus behind us. 

Monique starts explaining the important role of communication. ‘Internal communication connects departments and teams and makes sure that every employee is up-to-date with what is happening. It can also function as a support for implementing changes, which is essential for successful performances. Moreover, it is important to develop and share your vision with your employees; if they do not believe in our corporate story, why would our customers?’.

Communication is even more important in times of crisis. That is why a special team was established when the coronavirus was spreading. ‘We always have a crisis communication plan ready. It is important to act accordingly and to communicate quickly. As a local bank, we turn to the department Press Office of Rabobank Nederland. Together we draw up our communication message to make sure there is clear internal communication. It is a matter of formulating your message in a good way and taking the right actions (e.g. making a Q&A for internal and external purposes, keeping our news sites up-to-date). Before there is any contact with the press, our employees need to know what to do when they get questions from customers.’

Rabobank mainly uses CRM (Customer Relationship Management: the process of managing interactions with existing or potential customers). ‘With our CRM-systems, we are able to save, select and use information about our customers and prospects. In this way, we can approach our customers in a targeted way. We know what our customer is interested in, so we can respond to their interests with, for example, a certain campaign or a promotional offer.’ However, the coronacrisis has influenced Rabobank’s marketing towards its stakeholders. ‘A lot of events and campaigns have been put on hold. Now we have to look for other ways to communicate with our stakeholders. Entrepreneurs, an important stakeholder in our customer base, have had a rough time because of the virus. We have been looking for ways to help and inform them.’

Rabobank’s employees work from home as much as possible. That is why new priorities have been set for the employees. ‘In this day and age, the vitality and well-being of our employees have become increasingly important. We organise online vitality sessions and stimulate exercise and going outside to help one’s well-being. Moreover, we organise online moments where employees can catch up. A while ago, we organised an online pub quiz, which was a lot of fun!’ 

Although a lot has changed because of the coronavirus, Monique explains that the communication process throughout the crisis was never a problem. ‘The communication went well in my opinion. Because of great preparation from the national corona-team, we were informed quickly. As a result, we could shape our local communication well. We drew up a corona-newsletter for example, in which we inform our employees about all important affairs regarding the coronavirus and our services. Besides informing our employees, we also share our experiences and tips with each other. Moreover, there is a special corona-page with all current information on our Intranet.’  

To end the interview, we asked Monique for a tip for us future communication officers: ‘Communicate fast, consistently, open, carefully, and emphatically. And ofcourse: internal communication comes before external communication! Furthermore, ensure good aftercare and succession’. Use it to your advantage!

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