Corporate communication in the age of COVID 19
Emmanuel Macron’s announcement of containment measures, in force since 17 March, has profoundly shaken the economic world as a whole. French companies, destabilized in their production and organization, have had to adapt their activities to this unprecedented and, for most of them, unforeseen constraint. Some even had to suspend it.
From the point of view of their communication, their first concern was to massively inform their employees and customers, but also their partners and suppliers, of the consequences of containment on their activity. For those of them who continue to produce, it was necessary to explain to their employees the health and safety measures taken to avoid contamination as well as the new operating procedures.
Then, as a second step, many companies made a point of affirming and publicizing their commitment to the national solidarity effort. They communicated on how they intended to participate in the collective effort of a country “at war” against the coronavirus, especially to deal with the shortage of hydro-alcoholic gels and masks. Major groups, such as Pernod-Ricard and Tereos, have announced their contribution to the production of gels, and LVMH has organized the delivery of 10 million FFP2 masks to France.
Smaller organizations have also shown solidarity at the local level; for example, the company “Caviar de Neuvic”, located in Dordogne, has donated ten thousands of masks to the town of Neuvic; similarly, many restaurants have managed to deliver meals to healthcare personnel throughout France.
In addition to donating gels and masks, which are fundamental to reducing the further spread of the virus, the companies also participated in widely distributing health instructions, following the example of JCDecaux, which for several days now has been displaying on its street furniture a campaign in support of healthcare personnel and a reminder of health information, including “barrier gestures”.
Finally, they seek to facilitate the confinement of the French people: MAIF has thus strengthened its tutoring system, as has ARTE, which has made its educational platform available to all, while Canal +, for its part, offers access to all its channels for free, until 31 March. On a different note, and to smile in these tough times, the pornographic platform Pornhub has made its premium offer free for the month of March.
Of course, all these initiatives are an opportunity for companies to translate their values into action and to assert their social responsibility. But they are also the symbol of a Government that “can’t do everything”, as Lionel Jospin famously put it. Like what was observed during the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris, companies have become aware that they have a role to play and that they can take over from the public authorities, in addition to all the economic and health decisions taken by the latter with the aim of limiting contamination and safeguarding the French entrepreneurial fabric.
This commitment by companies in times of crisis is more broadly in line with a fundamental trend according to which consumers and employees today expect more from a company than simply marketing products and services. They are expected to act, alongside the State, to help resolve issues that go beyond their initial activity, in which they sometimes have a responsibility (climate change, unemployment, territorial divide, etc.), but sometimes not.
This is the full meaning of the recent PACT law, which created the legal status of « company with a mission » and the possibility for companies to give themselves a « core reason for existing »: companies can now define the role they intend to play in society and the meaning of their activity for the general interest. For companies that are in a material position to do so, the current situation is an opportunity to demonstrate that this ambition to be fully involved in the common good is not just an assertion of principle – some would say, but not us, a “matter of com” – and that it can be translated into concrete action for the benefit of all.