Over the recent weeks and months, the Belgian business community has been put to the test in terms of communication. Last month, in the midst of the corona crisis, Bepublic Group questioned the communication managers of more than a hundred of the largest companies in Belgium about their communication strategy. One of the most remarkable conclusions: no less than a third of the companies surveyed did not have a crisis communication plan ready.

One out of  three did not have a crisis communication plan ready

A first observation: more than one out of three companies was not sufficiently prepared to deal with a major crisis communication-wise. They had no crisis communication plan ready before corona. Thorough preparation does, however, make a huge difference. Good preparatory homework will allow you to buy valuable time. In times of crises, employees, clients and media expect clear and empathic information, and preferably quite fast .

Companies that have been practicing all possible crisis scenarios are one step ahead of their competitors. Lingerie manufacturer Van de Velde, for example, started producing face masks surprisingly quickly while sugar refinery Tiense Suiker started the production of alcohol gel. These are just a few examples that linked good business sense to strong communication.

Corona, a final breakthrough for online communication

It is also noteworthy that during the lockdown many large corporations focused on increasing their online visibility. Both in terms of communication – webinars, online training courses, podcasts – and in terms of sales. A good example is Delvaux, Belgium’s oldest quality leather goods manufacturer, which, in the midst of the corona crisis, launched a webshop for the first time and announced this via online and social media channels with great fanfare.

Our results also show that investing in online communication pays off: one out of three of the companies immediately reports better online visibility among customers and employees, and three out of four will therefore continue to offer their additional online offerings even after corona.

More internal communication after corona 

Corona has once again confronted companies when it comes to internal communication: dialogue with its own workforce is the most important thing. The workforce is your first ambassador to the outside world. How and when to communicate to employees when the corona virus suddenly appears on the work floor? How do you inform them that they will become temporarily unemployed? Fast and transparent consultation is crucial. And company leaders realise this: four out of ten indicate that they want to communicate internally more in the future.

External communication strengthens relationship with customers

In conclusion, our survey shows the importance of external communication. It is best not to wait to answer the media’s questions before going public. Not only customers and suppliers, but perhaps even the general public is waiting for your views on the crisis situation. The communication of Sportoase is a good example of this. This company was the first in its sector to close its doors, but shortly afterwards it launched ‘Sportoase TV’ on its website, which attracted a lot of viewers.

After all, a crisis also offers opportunities: more than a third of companies already notice an improved relationship with their customers as a result of their communication efforts. Never waste a good crisis, a cliché that also applies in corona times.

You can read the full report here.

* The study was carried out by Bepublic Group, in collaboration with research agency Indiville, between 30 March 2020 and 22 April 2020 among the communication managers of 105 large Belgian companies. The selected companies are the market leaders in the 14 largest sectors of our Belgian economy.