Over the course of the past six months the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses in a variety of ways. At H+K, we’ve seen a sizeable increase in the number of clients needing help from our Health + Wellness sector experts. In fact, our growth in this area has been such that we made a number of significant new hires to address the surge in both private and public sector clients who’ve reached out to us for help with new projects.
What’s been even more striking is the wide range of clients who have contacted us about health-specific communications challenges, which has led us to the conclusion that every organization is now part of the health sector. For some this is literally true, such as those who changed their product lines to make health products – including those in the alcoholic beverage space who shifted from brewing beer or distilling spirits to make hand sanitizer.
Another example are the countless clothing brands who have rolled out fashion lines of personal protective equipment such as stylish masks and faceguards. Those with brick and mortar stores have been forced to invest millions to provide customers with a healthy shopping environment – offering hand sanitizer upon entry; having masks on hand for those who forget theirs; disinfecting shelves and carts; and protecting staff with plexiglass.
Other businesses, most notably those in travel, tourism, and leisure, have had to adopt additional health measures on top of these essential safeguards. Temperature checks and other kinds of symptom screenings are now ubiquitous before you board a plane or enter a theme park. Cruise lines, like professional sports teams, are having to create and manage entire ‘bubbled’ employee ecosystems with intensive quarantine-like protocols.
In fact, any organization with employees – basically every organization – is in the health sector when it comes to their people. Everyone must provide safe and healthy working conditions, which can mean remote working, but we’re also now facing a critical challenge with respect to mental health. Those who haven’t been exposed to the virus may still suffer from anxiety and depression due to the stress or isolation caused by the pandemic.
All of these challenges are forcing organizations to talk about themselves and their services as if they were health care providers. Internal and external communications are now being delivered in a health and wellness context and, so, must contain at least some health and wellness content. And to be clear, we’re not talking about general or generic marketing to ask how people are doing or say we’re thinking of them at this difficult time.
We are all being inundated with information – and misinformation – about the pandemic, with much of it confusing or contradictory. Employees and customers are fast acquiring a level of health literacy that is seeing them carefully scrutinize what organizations are saying. We’re past the point where empty platitudes about best wishes is enough, every organization must communicate about health with authority, authenticity, and accuracy.
Every organization, no matter what they produce or service they provide, must now understand not only how the pandemic is affecting their operations but also each of their target audiences. To that end, they must demonstrate a solid grasp of how the pandemic and relevant public policies are evolving. And if they don’t have that capacity internally they’ve got to find external partners who do – because we’re all in the health sector now.