AB Thinks  →  16th June 2020

What’s next? IABC roundtable on the impact of Coronavirus


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In our latest podcast, Katie Macaulay talks to three fellows from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

Jennifer Wah, Brad Whitworth and Neil Griffiths join Katie to discuss what comms professionals could expect, and should prepare for, in a post-corona world. They also touch on some positives that have come out of the pandemic.

A fellowship is the highest honour the IABC can bestow on its members and Jennifer, Brad and Neil are among just 88 people worldwide with the prestigious title.

Jennifer, who based in Canada, has won more than two dozen awards for strategic comms writing and consulting and founded her storytelling and comms business Forwords in 1997. Brad, based in the USA, has 40 years’ experience in communications and marketing and is a renowned thought leader, lecturer and author. And Neil is a UK-based global communication and global inclusion lead at ERM, the world’s largest sustainability consultancy.

Below are some key takeaways from episode 11. Let us know what you think, we always love to have your feedback. Tweet us @ABthinks.

#1 Coronavirus has put us all on the same level

Brad: “I think this is the great equaliser in many ways, that some of this hierarchical strategy and mess we’ve gotten ourselves into over the years where there was real separation from first line workers all the way up to senior leaders has been flattened, just as we hope the curve on the pandemic has been flattened. We’re seeing the very human side of people. And I think the best leaders probably exhibited some of that.”

#2 It’s not been a work-life balance  

Neil: “Early on in lockdown what occurred to me was that we were in a work-life collision because the worlds that had so much space around them, and you managed to sort of navigate yourself between each of those bubbles, just all became one huge bubble and one messy bubble. And I think it’s thrust the parts together in a way we’ve probably never experienced before. And I think there’s several implications on us as a result of that.”

#3 We’ve been given a chance to really shine  

Jennifer: “I’ve felt instinctively from the beginning of this that this is our time as communication professionals, that never before have we had such an opportunity to help organisations and help communities move forward in really, really meaningful ways. What I hope is for at least a period of time, if not for longer, that we can hang on to that ability to influence and shape the way our organisations value the work being done, value the people doing it, that we can remain a part of shaping that messaging, because we’ve shown ourselves to be an essential ally during a time like this.”

#4 The line between internal and external comms has blurred even more

Brad: “I think the lines were fuzzy between internal and external before, I think they’re going to get even fuzzier. And we’re going to have to move this model. Instead of thinking of sender centric communication, which has been our forte for so long, we need to turn the model upside down and talk about receiver centric communication – where the person who is on the receiving end of things is the one who decides I need this, this is what I need.”

#5 Keep on top of people’s feelings  

Neil: “We need to be really on top of what people are feeling. As we contemplate returning to the workplace, for me, flexibility is critical. A big part of our role is going to be helping our leaders not jump to the wrong conclusions, that we remain open-eared to the conversations that are happening and that we not let people make assumptions. The breadth of issues that have come up when you start thinking about accessibility and different needs people have, it’s not a one size fits all. For internal comm professionals it’s absolutely critical to keep listening and make sure leaders are really aware of all the issues.”

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