POSTED BY Lucy Mason ON THE 5th May

For many businesses, life as we know it changed dramatically on March 23 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to stay and work from home.

The streets emptied, pubs and restaurants closed their doors, offices fell silent and business events and networking shuddered to a halt.

Things we took for granted – grabbing a quick coffee with a contact, lunch with colleagues, attending a business conference were now strictly off limits.

Some element of continuity has been possible thanks to the proliferation of virtual conferencing technology.

But anyone who thinks that Zoom, Microsoft Teams or one of the other alternatives is a total solution to the way we did things before is kidding themselves.

The Government has said it will announce a ‘comprehensive plan’ later this week as to how it expects the UK to start transitioning out of the extreme lockdown we have all had to live and work with for the last six weeks.

We are told this could include staggered starting times, massively reduced capacity on public transport, an end to hot-desking and no staff canteens.

There seems little prospect of any face-to-face business networking or conferences for the foreseeable future. Even a business lunch to discuss or seal a deal does not appear to be something we should be planning on anytime soon.

It is one thing for the Government to tell us all how we begin to move to the next stage of this horrible pandemic.

It is, however, completely another thing for business owners and senior management teams to start to implement a new normal in their workplaces.

Confidence will be the biggest issue. Many workers will be nervous moving from a state of total lockdown to being encouraged to return to their desk or production line or meeting customers. Bosses will be equally nervous as to whether they are potentially putting their people at any increased risk.

Many businesses will have to begin the mighty task of trying to rebuild their revenues and, subject to how long Government support packages stay in place, contemplating whether they will have to let people go because the business is no longer there.

One trend that is almost certain to increase exponentially is the use of flexible workers who can be hired to carry out short-term jobs. There are already over 5 million people who prefer to work this way to suit their lifestyles – a number that is set to grow partly as more people seek to take control of their own destinies and, inevitably, as companies make people redundant.

To a large extent, how well a business comes through the testing weeks and months that lie ahead will depend on how well they communicate.

This is a combination of internal communication – making sure you get the right messages to the right people at the right time. This communication will take several forms. In the first instance, you need to reassure your people that your company is creating a safe environment for them to return to work. But, secondly, you need to ensure they have confidence that your business will still be here in three, six, 12 months’ time.

Rather than telling them that ‘we’ve got a big job on our hands to keep going’, you should instead be telling them that ‘we’ve got some great plans to move forward and build a fantastic company for everyone’. If you don’t, your star talent may start to look elsewhere for opportunities.

Alongside this is the need for external communication – letting your customers, prospective customers, strategic partners, supply chain and the wider world know that you are still here and have a plan for how you are going to meet the challenges and opportunities of the new world we are all having to adjust to.

This will mean having a great marketing communications plan in place using all the channels that are right for your business whether trade media, national and international business press, social media or, as some businesses have done in this crisis, pivoting into ecommerce and other online strategies.

None of us truly knows where we are heading next as we move into the first stage of recovery post-lockdown. But ensuring we have the right messages and communication channels in place will be a pretty good starting place.

Call Nick Mason if you would like advice on your post-lockdown marketing communications plan: 0151 239 5050 / nick@masonmedia.co.uk