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Keeping calm, creative and connected: has togetherness ever been so business-critical?

Look back to the start of 2020, and you probably won’t recognise much about daily life. It’s been a disruptive few months for planet Earth and as far as we can see, the uncertainty is set to continue.

Working life now exists primarily in the virtual world. We work from our living rooms, our home studies, our sofas. We check in with colleagues and clients over video calls and virtual chatrooms. We socialise, send emails and stay motivated from our screens. And after several weeks, we’re finding ways to thrive in this new normal.

So how do businesses stay connected in this new reality? A reality that challenges everything we know about communication? At ICF Next, connectivity is at the heart of how we work. Whether it’s creative or strategy, colleagues, customers or citizens, everything centres on bringing people together, telling compelling stories and engaging hearts and minds to drive real results.

With uncertainty surrounding us, connection has never been more powerful. Now’s the time to put your brand purpose and values into practice and build a business-wide culture of communication – starting with your people. Be honest and direct with colleagues, let them know you understand the challenge, reassure them of your support, and give clear guidance on how, what and when they should connect.

Getting communication right now will lay firm foundations for your recovery from this crisis. Be proactive with your audience – take them on a journey and use their inputs to forge a route forward. Involving colleagues in future planning is a powerful catalyst for creating a unity, trust and advocacy in any workforce. Reach out to your people, challenge them to think creatively and benefit from a productive environment that paves the way for your organisation’s future success.

With face-to-face communication out of the equation, finding smart ways to enable virtual moments of participation and togetherness is vital.

So far, we’ve seen people connecting more – not less – amid these new ways of working, as businesses capitalise on the opportunity to broaden their reach and drive new means of collaboration. Bring new faces to the conversation, invite perspectives you wouldn’t normally hear and take a more inclusive approach to teamworking. It’s all about breaking down barriers and building (or strengthening) those business-critical relationships.

Being forced to think differently and find alternative ways of working is making everyone question the true meaning of connection – but that doesn’t have to be a weakness. Use the current mood of evolution to encourage fresh thinking and creative ideas. Adapt fast, build energy around communication and create live, evolving content through innovative mediums like podcasts, videos and real-time stories.

The current climate might be unprecedented, but it’s also a completely unique opportunity to create lasting impact and drive newly meaningful connections for workforces. We’re still equipping leaders with the right messages. We’re still building campaign plans, narratives, creative concepts, toolkits and activations designed to cut through organisational noise. Now, the stakes are just higher than ever.

In these uncertain days, it’s easy to lose focus on what matters. But by taking time to listen to your people, to start inclusive, forward-thinking conversations and to embrace the virtual world and all the opportunities and insights it brings, you’ll create a culture of communication strong enough to keep colleagues engaged and ready for whatever the future holds.

People are the heart of it all, so use the challenge we face to bring yours closer together. React quickly, speak out boldly and don’t be afraid to lead the way. Because if you can thrive in times like these, there’ll be no limit to what you’ll achieve.

Dani Batty, executive director, ICF Next

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