How Are Communicators in Manufacturing Adapting to the New Normal?

While many PR firms have been battening down the hatches during these wild times, we have continued to reach out and conduct primary research that will benefit everyone in the field.

In today’s guest blog, Peppercomm’s Matt Purdue shares the findings of qualitative research we’ve just released that shares the thoughts, feelings and actions of CCO’s in the manufacturing sector. 

There are plenty of great take-aways and best practices to be gleaned. So glean away…

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In the John Lennon classic “Nobody Told Me,” the legendary singer/songwriter croons, “Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed.” The great Liverpudlian could have been talking about what’s happening in the U.S. manufacturing sector today, particularly when it comes to communications and employee engagement. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, many manufacturers have been deemed essential businesses. Even in regions that have gone into lockdown, these companies have continued operating their facilities. Across the U.S., millions of frontline production staff have been and are still working under strict health and safety protocols.

Meanwhile, many office staff, engineers and technicians have been forced to work remotely, trying to figure out new ways to collaborate. This complicated new normal has been particularly challenging for communications leaders – but also very rewarding. To take the pulse of how they’re working and reveal best practices, we at Peppercomm recently conducted in-depth interviews with 10 comms executives across a range of manufacturing companies.

Our findings are detailed in our new report, “Engineered Resilience: COVID Communications in the Manufacturing Sector.” As a whole, we found that these communications professionals and their teams are responding to these strange days with determination and innovation. We also shared some of the top insights in a recent article in IndustyWeek. Some highlights of our research:

Think global, act local: Every company we spoke with has formed a pandemic task force with leadership at corporate headquarters. They develop new policies, and then communicate with regional and local teams to execute them as they see fit. Communications leaders have created toolkits to be used at individual locations to produce everything from manager talking points to posted signs – and even translated into multiple languages as needed to ensure 100-percent awareness.

Driving the dialogue: The leaders we interviewed stressed that they have upped their game in terms of gauging employee sentiment and encouraging more two-way communication. They have increased the number of employee surveys and are performing short pulse checks every few weeks. They are also urging employees to provide feedback directly to managers and/or executives, either directly or anonymously.

Supporting the home front: For those employees stuck at home, comms professionals are leading with empathy and understanding. They are constantly communicating ways staff can remain productive and positive despite the challenge of dealing with childcare, elder care and other issues. They also are being very careful in their communications about what the return to office – or “reboarding” – will look like. No one is rushing their office staff to return, with safety as their top priority.

We at Peppercomm have also developed a new Reboarding Playbook to help guide communicators on the path of bringing employees back to their facilities. It’s available at no charge in an effort to share this critical information as widely as possible as the U.S. economy pushes toward recovery.

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