Businesses in Zimbabwe have been encouraged to embrace holistic and collective crisis communication approaches in order to mitigate the impact of COVID19 in the wake of a spike in infections recorded in workplaces across the country.
Speaking at a virtual Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations (ZIPR) Masterclass held on Thursday as parts of efforts to improve organisational communications in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, Elizabeth Karonga, the Public Relations and Communications Manager for the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) observed that organisations needed to be more proactive in engaging the stakeholders on COVID19 and how it was affecting their operations.
“The organisation has an obligation to proffer proactive and fast communication to its stakeholders to maintain good relations, said Kuronga.
“Staff members are particularly vulnerable as the challenges caused by the COVID19 pandemic require focus amid uncertainty. Staff members thus need consistent and accurate information and guidance which is actionable so that they can support and protect the organisation as well as the community at large,” She added.
She pointed out that employers needed to reassure employees that their dedication to duty was valued and they would do as much as they could to ensure that they are safe while traveling to and from work and while they are going about their duties in their workplaces.
She also observed that there was need for organisations to also earn trust and build relationships with their external stakeholders especially during such difficult times.
“There is need to earn trust, strengthen and build relationships with external stakeholders impacted your operations during this uncertain time. Shareholders require the company to have a plan for continuum to conduct business without compromising health and safety measures,” said Karonga.
Karonga’s call comes in the wake of a high number of statements issued by various organisations indicating that their employees had tested positive to COVID19. This is in spite of Government calls for organisations to be vigilant in ensuring their staff are tested and work environments adhere to World Health Organisations (WHO) guidelines on preventative practices.
Zimbabwe recorded its first COVID19 case in March leading to a national lockdown that saw a shutdown of all sectors of the economy. The easing of the lockdown in recent weeks allowing certain sections of the economy to reopen has seen an increase in the number of businesses opening up their premises to both employees and customers. With the increase in COVID19 infections around the country, workplaces have gained the spotlight as epicentres of the pandemic due to the spate of positive cases recorded in employees who have contracted the virus whilst at work.
In response to this, the ZIPR has initiated a programme to capacitate business leaders and public relations practitioners to communicate effectively with their various stakeholders.
“Our mandate as a body is keep finding improved and more effective ways of communicating in the workplace. We are here to capacitate the nation’s communicators. These Masterclasses are meant to touch on various aspects of strategic information dissemination during these difficult times when faced with a pandemic. We recognise that communication plays a critical role in reducing the negative impact of the pandemic subsequently saving lives primarily in the workplace,” said ZIPR President Godfrey Koti.
The Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations is the premier professional body for public relations practitioners in Zimbabwe. Established in 1966 it is one of the oldest professional associations in Africa with the aim of promoting the development of public relations in Zimbabwe.