Businesses in Zimbabwe have been encouraged to embrace holistic and collective crisis communication approaches in order to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 in the wake of a spike in infections recorded in workplaces across the country. This came out during a virtual Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations (ZIPR) Masterclass as part of efforts to improve organisational communications in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zambezi River Authority Public Relations and Communications Manager Elizabeth Karonga said organisations needs to be more proactive in engaging stakeholders on Covid-19 impact to operations.
“The organisation has an obligation to proffer proactive and fast communication to its stakeholders to maintain good relations,” she said.“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.”
Employers needs to ensure safety of employees, she said, while traveling to and from work as well going about their duties in their workplaces. Karonga stresses the need for organisations to 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,” she said.
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 Covid-19. 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 Covid-19 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 Covid-19 infections around the country, workplaces have become 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, ZIPR has initiated a programme to capacitate business leaders and public relations practitioners to communicate effectively with their various stakeholders.
ZIPR President Godfrey Koti said: “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.” ZIPR 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.