Extensive communication and concerted effort crucial for businesses to combat COVID-19.

Businesses have been implored to embrace holistic and collective crisis communication approaches in the wake of surging COVID-19 cases at workplaces.

This was unveiled during a virtual Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations (ZIPR) Masterclass held on Thursday which sought to compliment organisational communication initiatives already in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the virtual meeting, Public Relations and Communications Manager for the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) Elizabeth Karonga said that organisations need to be proactive in engaging stakeholders on COVID-19 with a view to reveal how it is impacting their operations.
“The organisation has an obligation to proffer proactive and fast communication to its stakeholders to maintain good relations.
“Staff members are particularly vulnerable as the challenges caused by the COVID-19 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 said.
She pointed out that employers needed to reassure employees that their dedication to duty is valued and register unwavering commitment to their safety whenever they conduct their duties as well as when travelling to and from work.
Karonga mentioned that there is an urgent need for organisations to also earn trust and build relationships with external stakeholders especially during these difficult times.
“There is need to earn trust, strengthen and build relationships with external stakeholders impacting 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.  
Her call comes at a time when most companies and organisations are admitting to have recorded confirmed COVID-19 cases within their workforce. This is in spite of Government’s calls for organisations to be vigilant in ensuring that staff members are tested and adhering to the World Health Organisations (WHO) preventative guidelines.
Zimbabwe recorded its first COVID-19 case in March which prompted a national lockdown which has witnessed a shutdown of all sectors of the economy save for those that provide essential services. The recent relaxation of the lockdown restrictions which permitted certain economic sectors to resume operations is believed to be one of the contributory factors to the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases at workplaces.
Against this background, ZIPR President Godfrey Koti said this gave birth to the masterclass programme which will capacitate business leaders and public relations practitioners to communicate effectively with various stakeholders.
“Our mandate as a body is to 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 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.