REINFORCING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS
When Covid-19 shut down the UK and other countries, it forced companies to quickly identify how to best manage the flow of information and communicate with their employees and clients in a time of crisis. Marie Chinnici Everitt, managing director and chief marketing officer overseeing global marketing and corporate communications for DTCC, a leading financial services infrastructure provider, explores the strategies companies used to do so, and how communications has now become multi-purpose, beyond immediate information dissemination into a way to improve engagement.
As a financial market infrastructure provider, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), is a critically important component of the global financial system responsible for providing clearing, settlement and the recording of monetary and other financial transactions. We employ thousands of people around the world and, in 2019, we processed securities transactions valued at $2.15 quadrillion. Like many firms, we’ve had to rapidly adapt our communications strategy as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we’ve had to get it right, as the smooth functioning of the global economy relies on us to process transactions efficiently and effectively each and every day.
While we’ve leveraged and adapted previously developed crisis communications strategies and best practices to effectively communicate with staff and clients during the pandemic as the rapid transition to remote working accelerated, we’ve also taken this moment as a unique opportunity to further re-imagine our marketing and communications approaches for employees, clients and other key stakeholders.
When the UK, US and other markets around globe went into lockdown in mid-March, we had to manage the flow of information to our employees, while simultaneously adapting our approach to how we engage with clients. The immediate priority was ensuring that our staff were safe and that we could continue to seamlessly service our clients -- an outreach initiative that required considerable tailoring as all of our stakeholders were dealing with their own unique circumstances. Efficient decision-making and a willingness to experiment were paramount.
The volume of news was copious in the early days of the crisis, and information was coming from many directions and, in some cases, was conflicting. Several strategies were particularly successful in ensuring employees and clients were receiving necessary, accurate information without being overwhelmed by it:
1. Apply a Filter:
Our benchmark was to ask ourselves, “In this unique situation, what would a reasonable person expect from a responsible organisation?” and then we delivered on that. During a time when it would have been easy to become overwhelmed by a flood of news and updates, it was a useful standard to ensure we were communicating information that was essential without disseminating noise. This filter was applied to both internal and external communications.
2. Press Pause:
Quickly, we learned that clients were facing many of the same challenges we were, making swift decisions and rapidly adjusting strategies to safeguard their businesses. Clients were no longer working on the same initiatives they were pre-Covid, and in response, we discontinued discretionary marketing around product promotion and shifted our focus to delivering essential information, such as how to access or use several products and service that had quickly become vital in a turbulent marketplace.
3. Change the Channel:
Our analytics indicated that clients were increasingly relying on our website and that our employees were depending on our intranet as the crisis developed, so we shifted our emphasis to those channels, as opposed to other methods like email or social media. From a client perspective, we worked to ensure that business critical updates were posted to our corporate website’s homepage, making access to essential information quick and easy. From an employee perspective. there were a few topics that were not only fundamental, but constantly being updated, such as what to do if an employee was diagnosed with Covid-19, what benefits were available, and best practices for running team meetings effectively and securely in a remote working environment. Pre-Covid 19, our employees were heavily email-dependent, but we would have been filling employee inboxes with nearly constant updates. Instead, we shifted to a central information hub and made it easily searchable. We also offered the option to receive a regular email containing updates and highlights. Employees could choose how they preferred to receive information, and how often.
Throughout, each strategy and decision were underscored by a tone of transparency and authenticity. We crafted each message with great care and sensitivity to how each stakeholder group was feeling. Ahead of the crisis, DTCC had already been shifting our voice from a more corporate, business to business tone to a more human, person to person tone, but Covid-19 accelerated the approach. Employee feedback indicated that while working remotely, they wanted to hear from our executives in a more authentic way. By participating in Zoom meetings and sharing pre-recorded videos, executives allowed employees into their homes and showed that we all share the same challenges and concerns, whether with young children barging into video meetings, technology frustrations from a newly remote set-up, or anxiety about an uncertain future. This built trust, and in turn, employees have responded with an impressive and consistent dedication to their work and to DTCC while continuing to cope with the issues resulting from a global pandemic.
While the core principles guiding our approach to communications are the same as they were before the crisis, how we execute changed – and we expect it will continue to evolve. Previously, we’d get our game faces on while travelling to the office and now, we walk into another room in our homes – the boundaries are different. We are all bringing more of our full selves into the workplace, resulting in a more authentic and robust way of engaging with our peers and our clients, something that will be embedded into DTCC’s culture and how we communicate for years to come. This crisis has enabled us to flex on our strategies, evolve them to meet the demands of today’s environment and position us to be even more resilient when dealing with future uncertainties and crises. All of this has been accomplished while cultivating a more open and expressive approach to our professional lives, one that has energised us and enabled us to deliver on the demands of today while positioning us well for tomorrow.