Fostering Community Through Communication

A few months ago, COVID-19 seemed like a short-term inconvenience. Now, with communities across the country at risk because of the financial, emotional and physical consequences of the coronavirus crisis, the future may seem murky. Layer in the recent racial tensions brought to light by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the examples abound of lives upended, program revenues halted, and communities once united, now at odds. And while no two communities are the same, each with their own sets of challenges and nuance, there are some important fundamental communications practices that can anchor a strategy, and even bring people together, during these unforeseen circumstances.

You need no reminder of the many factors you cannot control, but it is vital, even in these prolonged days of these crises and issues, to envision what you want your community to be when we eventually emerge and finally have a clearer account of lives and livelihoods forever changed. Even a crisis of this magnitude can be an opportunity to showcase inspired leadership. Now is the time to step forward with reason and optimism to prepare your community to emerge from this crisis better than before.

Community members and key stakeholders need to trust that their leadership will communicate with them honestly, consistently and compassionately in a crisis. If you haven’t already, plan to share timely, frequent communications and keep up a steady drumbeat of accurate updates about what matters most to your citizens and neighbors.  Two-way communication is also imperative; invite them to provide feedback and take the time to show empathy for the unprecedented difficulties this crisis may be causing in the lives of those in your community.

While your facilities may be closed, your public programs cancelled and your staff dispersed, the mission of your community is still unwavering. Take care now to develop strategic communications to keep your key audiences engaged and informed and remind them of the vital role they play, the difference they have made, and the impact they can continue to make as committed community members.

It’s important to remember to be thoughtful about the language, messages, and stories you share. It’s more critical than ever to uplift the marginalized and provide opportunities for community members to be heard. The compassion you show through consistent and transparent communications now can shape their impression of your community (and its leaders or elected officials) for years to come.