By Scott E. Pacheco, marketing and communications manager at Lerch, Early and Brewer
It goes without saying during a crisis that it is extremely important to stay in touch with your clients, letting them know you stand ready to meet their needs.
Just as important, however, is managing the ecosystem of attorneys, secretaries, paralegals, and staff within your firm. From high-level partners performing work for major clients to support staff opening mail, employees at all levels almost always function better if they know what is going on.
COVID-19 has been top of mind for the past several months and for good reason: it has been a true double-whammy. The pandemic has not only seriously disrupted commerce, but also prevented in-person meetings to work through the challenges.
Despite the prevalence of the coronavirus, there are a few important internal communications practices to keep in mind during any challenging time. And legal marketers, particularly those in a marcom role, may find themselves playing a major role in reaching their coworkers.
Don’t Leave Your People in the Dark
This doesn’t mean spilling the beans on last night’s emergency management committee meeting, but it does mean trusting your employees enough to give them more information than “Everything is fine,” or “We’re handling the situation.”
Let your employees know what you’re doing to mitigate the situation, give specific examples of actions you are taking for their benefit, and explain how everyone, especially management, is doing their part to show you’re all in it together. Context is so important – tough decisions are easier to accept when the reasoning behind those choices is clear.
Tailor the message and hold separate meetings for different groups. For example, communicating with partners may be a lot different from the messages you send to support staff.
Reassurance and direction from leadership takes away the one thing no one really likes – uncertainty.
Engage Your Employees
Look for opportunities to survey your employees on their state of mind and what could be done to make the situation better for them. In the case of something like COVID-19 where in-person interactions are off the table, you might acknowledge holidays and birthdays with electronic birthday cards and hosting Zoom happy hours to welcome new employees (who will tell the grandchildren one day about starting a new job amid “interesting” circumstances).
Involve them in decisions (even minor ones) when appropriate, and let them take some ownership of the firm’s successes in mitigating a crisis.
After building trust with your immediate communication, stay consistent. Run updates in the same space in your internal newsletter. Hold informational meetings. Communicate major developments.
In the time of COVID-19, there’s no reason not to use a video conference platform to set up weekly or bi-weekly check-in meetings. Set them up and keep having them, even if they are only 10 minutes long – just to make sure everyone is holding up. Mental health can be a big issue during times of crisis and being responsive and present can go a long way towards addressing potential issues.
In times of crisis, communication is king. Remember to keep in the loop those people that make your business possible.