What’s Working Now in Communications?

By Maura Keaney

We can all agree our world has changed in profound ways during the past two months. The distance—among colleagues, parents, students, teachers—we’ve been obliged to maintain has made us reconsider what it means to connect and how we can be present for one another without actually being there. 

Fundamentally, this is a communications challenge, and one that is less about what platforms and tools we use and more about how we talk to one another. It’s been fascinating to see how individuals and organizations have adapted (at warp speed!) their approaches to engaging with one another, sharing experiences, and providing important information.

As we adapt to the next normal, in whatever form that takes, some of the ways that we’ve adapted to socially distant life are likely to persist, such as how we work (probably more from home) and go to the doctor (telemedicine). In the next normal, they just make sense. So, too, do many of the new ways of communicating. Here are a few that I think have worked well during the pandemic and that, for those of us in the communications field especially, we should keep up in the future.  

1. Embracing Authenticity, Candor and Brevity

Whether through limited production value (journalists reporting from home, via Zoom) or simplicity of language (think Gov. Cuomo’s direct, often informal style), communications now bring a refreshing realness that cuts out a lot of the artifice and pomp. It has also forced many organizations to be candid about the challenges they face and how they are adapting. Unable to host meetings and events, Rich Nickel with College Success Arizona regularly releases videos to share news and information.

Having now experienced these more minimalist and transparent approaches to communications, I think the public will have little patience or appetite for a return to overproduced, overwritten, or relentlessly messaged communications. We need and want clear, concise information that comes from actual human beings, not from faceless corporations or impersonal organizations.

2. Making Communications Consistent and Connected

In many organizations, ownership of various communications channels is shared across multiple individuals or departments. The website, social media, paid media, earned media, new materials, and events may run on separate tracks-in some cases with limited internal coordination. Given all that goes into a comprehensive communications strategy, it’s easy to see how inconsistent and sometimes contradictory information can be disseminated. While a lack of communications coordination may have been a pain point for organizations before the pandemic, it has become unacceptable and, for some, a threat to their survival.

I see organizations of all sizes now redoubling their efforts to ensure that they have the internal channels and processes in place to enable their communicators to sync up efficiently and ensure consistent, accurate messages are shared and amplified by various channels. While Arizona Science Center had to temporary close their doors to the public, they connect with audiences through remote learning and live TV interviews.

3. Getting Things Done (Start to Finish)

We’ve all been part of projects that begin with the best intentions and a burst of enthusiasm before losing momentum as priorities shift or external factors cause a delay. Then the project is put on hold…indefinitely. In our current circumstances, the heightened demand for up-to-date information, relevant policies, and new content mean that communications assets have a new urgency about them. Streamlining the processes for developing new messages and assets—and getting them approved—is imperative. Otherwise, they may no longer be relevant by the time they are ready to go live—or they may never be completed at all.

Looking to support educators when schools closed for the year, Point Made Learning quickly jumped into action to  offer their anti-race program for free for the month of April.

These strategies were in place well before the pandemic, and we’d like them to stay. Incorporating them into communications strategies is what we help our clients do at Collaborative every day.

Collaborative Communications is the premier communications and consulting firm specializing in education and learning. Our partners trust us to help them tell their stories, shape public and policy conversations about core issues, and develop strategies for sustained success. We integrate deep subject-matter knowledge with the expertise required to realize your ambitions. 

Maura KeaneyWant to learn more from Maura? Email her at keaney@collaborativecommunications.com.