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The pulse of the Covid Conversation: What’s being communicated now?

In early March, we began analyzing communications from the world’s biggest brands to understand how they were talking about their businesses and issues related to COVID-19.  Since then, we’ve built a database of more than 600 statements and communications to help our clients successfully engage with their customers, employees, and investors during this time. We will be publishing our findings regularly to keep a pulse of the conversation and understand how it’s changing over time.

There are three dominant themes this week, and different industries own each of them. Here’s what we’re seeing:

THEME 1:  Opening up offices (or not).  Tech companies are setting the pace on “the return” and what the future of work will look like. 
In an internal email, Twitter became the first major tech company to allow employees who are able to work remotely to do so indefinitely.  

Language we are watching:  work from anywhere, forever, careful, intentional, gradual
  • “The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home, and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.”
  • “When we do decide to open offices, it also won’t be a snap back to the way it was before,” the company said. “It will be careful, intentional, office by office and gradual.
Other big tech players like Google, Facebook and Amazon announcing that they will allow employees to work remotely until the end of the year. 

Language we are watching:  safety measures, different in-office experience, work from anywhere, local nuances, future of work
  • From Google: “Employees who need to return to the office will start being able to do so sometime in June or July with enhanced safety measures and a different in-office experience. But the majority of employees who can carry out their jobs from home will likely do so until the end of the year.”
  • From Facebook: The company will consider various factors such as “public health data, government guidance and local nuances” when deciding whether to reopen its offices, said a spokeswoman. 
Other companies in tech are focused on what the future of work will look like focusing on the opportunities in front of us.

Language we are watching: reimagine, the future of work, significant changes
  • IBM published the results of a poll distributed to over 25,000 adults in the US, finding that US consumers are planning to make “significant changes” in the way they go about their lives and their work after the threat of the virus fades.
  • Dell offered a hopeful message for the future of work, stating “what we know for sure is we have the opportunity to reimagine the future of work – again.”

THEME 2:  Purpose. Pharma companies are focused heavily on purpose communications.  And for many, that means focusing on their employees in addition to their quest for treatments, testing, or vaccines for COVID-19. 
Given the significant role that pharmaceutical companies are playing in the quest for a treatment, cure and vaccine, it’s no surprise that a lot of their communication is focused on this. While some like J&J seem to be staking out the moonshot of finding the vaccine, others like GSK are focused on coming together and finding the answers. 
Language we are watching: collaboration, cure, investigational drug, vaccine
  • J&J has developed an eight-episode educational video series exploring the latest efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the road to finding a vaccine. On its website, J&J refers to the video series as one way that it is mobilizing resources to help find solutions for COVID-19.
  • GSK CEO Dr Hal Baron: “Our competitors are not our enemies; disease is the real enemy and to try to cure it is our shared objective. Ending #COVID19 requires a collective effort from everyone working in healthcare. At GSK, we’re collaborating with partners to find innovative solutions for patients.”
According to a study this month by our friends at Fleishman Hillard, how organizations treat employees is the #1 driver of reputation among consumers right now. Amgen and AbbVie are leading the way by focusing on their employees.
Language we are watching:  everyday heroes, transforming lives by showing up to work, mission, values, culture
  • Amgen praised the efforts of its “everyday heroes” (its employees), who are showing commitment to “Amgen’s mission and values” during the pandemic.
  • AbbVie nodded to its principles and strong company culture as its “solid foundation” that have allowed it to weather the uncertainty posed by COVID-19. They also celebrated their employees when they said, “Our science, healthcare and manufacturing employees are transforming lives by showing up to work each day – despite all the turmoil in the world – to continue advancing our pipeline and producing the essential medicines our patients need.”

THEME 3:  Safety and Protection.  Retailers continue their focus on protecting consumers and employees from risks.
In-person retailers like Macy began to outline what the re-opening will look like, while online retailers like Amazon continued to introduce new language in the COVID lexicon.
Language we are watching:  no touch, curbside pickup, best practices, face coverings, social distancing, cleanliness, wellness, constantly monitoring, safe environment, community, social distancing ambassadors.
  • Jeff Ganette, CEO of Macy’s, said in a presentation, “Beauty departments will offer “no-touch” consultations and demonstrations with the option to test products on a piece of paper with a diagram of a face.”
  • A profile of the Amazon staff “stepping up…to make sure that Amazon boxes arrive with what you need” praised the efforts of employees displaying leadership at home and at work – including a handful of its newly appointed social distancing ambassadors.”
Best Buy connected this message about safety to a greater purpose: keeping people connected to the things that matter to them most. 
Language we are watching: “essential” vs. “safe” retailers, stay connected, community, support, help the world connect.
  • Best Buy CEO Corie Barry announced the retailer would resume “essential” in-home services and explained its plans for re-opening. Barry positioned Best Buy’s reopening as part of its commitment “to helping you stay connected to the people and things that matter to you the most.

The Ouch Crisis Moment of the Week

United. They stepped in it after a photo of a crowded flight went viral.
  • What they said: “We’ve overhauled our cleaning and safety procedures and implemented a new boarding and deplaning process to promote social distancing,” spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said in an email. “Our flight to San Francisco had an additional 25 medical professionals on board who were flying for free to volunteer their time in New York. We’ve provided complimentary flights for more than 1,000 doctors and nurses in the past few weeks alone – and all passengers and employees were asked to wear face coverings, consistent with our new policy.” 
  • What we heard: Wait what? Sounds to us like you think that folks who fly for free don’t deserve the same safety measures as paying customers. Also, it doesn’t even make sense. 

Want to see for yourself? Our collection of over 600 statements is growing every day – you can check out the full database here!

Have questions about how to communicate in the age of COVID? We want to hear from you. If you’re interested in crafting communication that is timely, articulate, and resonant, get in touch with us.