Not even the best writers or Hollywood directors could have imagined a plot as ironic as the situation we now face. It took eleven years for Greece to get back on its feet after what was perhaps the worst crisis of our time crippled our economy, institutions, and values—and yet, as we found our way back into the light, leaving behind self-driven choices, fake leaders, incompetent policies and extreme views, a new challenge appeared in the shape of a pandemic threatening to change our lives once again.
COVID-19 is not just a danger to our health and healthcare systems but also to our economies, threatening key industries such as retail, tourism, travel, and entertainment. We don’t know when this is going to end, when we’ll go back to normal or what that normal will look like. We need clear, accurate and regular information, and we need decisive, strong and intelligent leadership that trusts experts and inspires a collective effort. Equally, we need to realize the profound importance of uniting our efforts by simply following the guidelines.
Thankfully—if not miraculously—in Greece we managed, for once, to have all of that.
While there are those on TV and social media who linger on death tolls, dark projections, sad stories, and conspiracy theories, triggering our appetite for drama and dragging us into negativity and insecurity, that is the worst thing we can do in the face of this unprecedented challenge. In such times of crisis, when everyone feels vulnerable and worried about their health, their loved ones, their job and their future, emotional support is of utmost importance—especially considering that the impact of the coronavirus crisis will likely be severe and prolonged.
We, as businesses, have no way to control media charlatans and foolish tweets nor to crusade against fake news that confuses and adds to the insecurity and negativity of the people.
We can, however, put forward a communication strategy that will utilize all new available technologies and social networking, traditional and new media, to reshape the conversation by blending accurate information with positive messages, new tools and ideas that allow our people—whether employees and their families, partners, associates or clients—to believe that regardless of when and how, this too shall pass and that we are already working and preparing for that next day.
People—our people—have a unique capacity to meet any challenge, and that capacity may well be limitless. We must not, however, merely rely on that capacity; rather we must enhance it, balancing the sad stories around us with a blend of positive attitude, good news and proper tools that will generate creativity and collaboration while offering a hub for credible information and support.
In times like these, people need to speak, to communicate, to feel included, and to look up to their leaders. A communication mechanism that covers these needs is not just another cost but perhaps the most important investment in the effort to prevent social distancing from transforming into a depression pandemic.
So, to paraphrase the English rock band Def Leppard from the golden ‘80s, let’s pour some sugar on it… This too shall pass.