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The Power Of Communication During COVID-19: Cascading Through The New Normal Towards The Next Normal

We aren’t at the end of COVID-19 and not the beginning of the same either. We are somewhere in between.

Photo by Firos nv on Unsplash

The Communication upraises to make one shine through! We are not at the end of COVID-19 and not the beginning of the same either. We are somewhere in between then! So in such a crisis situation what can make one stronger and far more emergent! It blows off all the unattainable dilemmas which occur in the conjoint affiliation of time!    

Every time there is a crisis we are discussing, analysing and debating about the same! When can we look beyond that? Is that even possible? Well, that is the only way forward actually! The way ahead is the next normal! The one after the new normal! The one after the new normal is what is taking the shape of the so-called next normal! This is the future. The vital question is why the future is so essential when the present is bleak! 

Now the only way to work things out is by way of making the future click! The key is to not imagine but reimaging is necessary! So in such uncertainties planning is not enough! We have to make the shift and draft through the present by changing and adapting to the same as the changes and need for adaptation are irreversible and irrevocable!  

Such irreversible occurrences which are not yet effective in 2020 but will take shape and make form in the next 10 years! This is where an agile and vigilant mindset plays a vital role and becomes the most pertinent benefactor in driving people to the next level of decision making! This is where speed to absorb and act becomes essential and we have to look at global versus local! So we cannot just cut off communication in order to survive on our own as there is no on my own now!  It has become we all need each other cohesively.

The first thing to do in such a situation is to withstand digital transformation whether that’s the adoption of analytics or improving the productivity or the expansion of digital channels that is immaterial.  The future will never shape up the way it needs to be! It will always be different and uncertain. So looking at the lessons in history can help all business leaders and policy makers’ figure out how to manage the challenging years ahead! However, that help will be half light; the other half needs to be with an emergence of the current and riding through the torrent waves of the uncertainties! 

When everybody needs to understand that in the end is when we have to begin! The sense of purpose around rebuilding lives and more so lively hoods is crucial. Global institutions have created the structure to promote technology sharing, economic growth and more so political stability. With investment coming in as liberalised trade rules the faster expansion of transfer and furthermore expansion of technology. 

The stage has been set for sustained growth with broad social benefits as workers from low paid sectors such as agriculture have moved to high paid ones with more productivity. 

When the future historians look back on the first two decades of the 21st century one of the themes they will emphasise on will be globalisation! Trade services may be already more valuable than goods! Even the trade in goods often had a digital component attached! Indicating the use of online communication!

Global institutions need to be modernised so that these can become the basis of inclusive growth. International agreements that enable balanced and safe flow of data and services including standard for taxes on digital products and services need to be far more developed.

No desirable growth is ever possible without economic growth which means productivity has to grow too! Pushing the frontier of innovation and technology is by boosting productivity! The sustained long term growth comes from here!  Fulfilling the potential of these technologies however, requires supportive regulation and well prepared work forces. Otherwise, the danger is that those who are displaced by technological change will end up in a low pad or casual growth which is the opposite of inclusive growth. This is meditated and reached out through communication.

So this brings the triple bottom linear meaning which merges the economic, social and governance program creating positive, financial value through greater efficiency, innovation. Risk management and accessing markets is to be done! This is the most all companies will ever undertake.

So by lying in dialogue and moving towards corporate stagnation is creating healthy agonised structures and the economy is not benefitting for sure! What is needed is having a commitment to make the changes and investments that will create a future of broad perspective. Again that is made possible through online communication! 

This brings us to the innate perspective which is that of how can the future be acclimated with a vaccine being the most prominent factor of uprising communication? What is the situation analysis? How are the companies coping up with the unresolved queries on the same?

Companies that are in the forefront of the vaccine and the billions of dollars that needs to be spent on vaccine research. And then there are 5 billion people on the planet and 1.3 of those in India alone that need to be vaccinated. Remember, 60% of India’s population is below the poverty line and they can’t possibly afford the vaccine.

That said, the cost of the vaccine is also going to be probative i.e. expensive. This situation calls for more private and public partnership. Programs that run across countries! For example, the eradication of smallpox or polio is one such example. Once upon a time they were killers. So, while there is hope there is also a dilemma of who gets the vaccine. Countries in Africa will be the last to get it. Meaning, there will be millions of deaths in Africa before the vaccine reaches them. Would corporations want to profit from the vaccine – in a capitalistic scenario the answer is Yes! But when you consider the humanitarian aspect of things, one would be tempted to say a no. But who wins in the end? Its economics! Because money and time are finite resources and there are costs involved. 

How do you ensure that it reaches the masses without delay. Who makes the choice who gets the vaccine and who doesn’t? These are more ethical and moral questions that need to be answered.  

So let’s look at a more deeper and human view on communication being the crucial key during the crisis;

Internal crisis solved through hope

External crisis solved through awareness

Hope and Awareness needed for a business to Thrive and more so in a crisis to Survive.

For Awareness and Stability in an unstable situation communication is the key as that is the only thing binding us together. It needs to be factual and concrete and something which holds universal when the crisis is universal.

For Hope communication is essential as it indicates the way forward and how things will possibly unfold.

For Awareness we have to look at how business will propel further in order for us to do well by way of communicating through all the spectrums of market scenarios, trends, the collapse, the relapse, the revival etc. 

For Hope we have to look at the way forward to let go of the despair with vaccines and await the times ahead of us.

The keywords become essential in such a scenario, the same keywords we use to communicate on a day to day basis.

They become very vital to our state of mind as they make us plan or things when the entire planning has gone for a toss.

So since the schedule is back fired we need to work on a new schedule. This is where communication via online mediums and communication via all mediums makes such a huge difference. It is the online communication and how that has bound the whole globe together in the time of crisis. The prime repository of such contextual chaos or perpetual genius depends on how we view it is social media!

One good reason why people were glued to social media in the times of the pandemic was largely because of the minute-by-minute description of the “current status”. For instance, a website like worldometers.info/ gives one up-to-date information on the about countries and their pandemic statistic. Probably for the first time in history after the world war, humanity congregated on one dimension of that information – how many people are down with COVID in my country? Where does my country stand? Clearly diffusion of bad news spreads faster than good! And we have the media amplifying the rest. Consider a country like India with a population of over a billion people, the discussion around COVID numbers became a focal point. 

In this COVID milieu, a new set of network configurations emerged. It was no longer the social influencers that ruled the information roost but a host of other stars. One such person –  the WHO’s current Director-General is Tedros Adhanom, former Health Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia. He was at the forefront of WHOS COVID communication. When analyzed from close quarters, his press briefings were crisp, carefully measured words that did not provoke or caused panic. Afterall WHO is the apex body for global health! Probably, WHO was the central hub from where information flowed top-down. From the experts to the semi-experts, to the literates and to the novices; it was open to all. Each one of these actors was able to decipher the information from their precinct. But country heads also took this information and used it to their own advantage. To be sure, information has always been the currency for change and changing political mindsets. Something we all saw in the United States and other countries of the European Union too. If one were to track the flow of information, it’s easy to see how the linkages become conspicuous. 

Historically, if data is the new oil… The information which is distilled data is turbo-charged fuel. 5 months into the pandemic now see that the statistics of the pandemic is no longer important to the masses. Countries have been successful in diverting the masses to more mundane, routine stuff of keeping the economic engine rolling. Today, as India or Brazil touching 100,000 cases is not big news. Stepping back, two months ago a rise of 20K would have been considered breaking news! 

With the glut of information around the human mind, would always want to regress to the mean i.e. come to a stable state. The pandemic was an aberration. And now, all information about the bad scenes of the pandemic has been replaced with a new one – the “new normal” syndrome. Countries like Sweden for instance did not participate in the lockdown. They did but with some very minor restrictions. The result – Sweden’s cases did not skyrocket. Of course, Sweden’s population density was also a major factor contributing to the lower cases. 

With almost a billion people online (and Whatsapp contributing to 400 million users in India alone!), the “new normal” seems to be the way forward for humanity. A word that brings touts or pretends itself to be a harbinger of spring. A situation where everything is going to come back to where it was! Information on social media is all about instances. A billion impressions per second of a hashtag are enough to bring governments down and even pass judgments. It’s like an unregulated avalanche of opinions and micro opinions that keep floating around our information networks. Information is moving at a speed of light and social media being that medium is amplifying its energy. Much like Higgs Boson Theory – the invisible energy field that gives particles additional speed or spin! Information much like the fundamental particles of nature is organic and has a life. Probably the Pandemic gave the Virus – a new lease of life. The word vaccine is now a synonym for hope. 

Perhaps when the euphoria of the pandemic and the vaccine dies down we will be able to pick up the pieces that we have left behind. Again, we will have online communication to thank for that!

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Written By

Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India. She is also an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a 1-on-1 basis.

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