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  • Bharvi Dani, Rose George, Gauri Dathan

How has the Pandemic affected the Communication Strategies for Businesses? Part 2 Walmart

The largest health and economic crisis of Covid-19 has forced economies and businesses to take extraordinary measures of survival in order to protect their people and continue with their operations.

In order to emerge stronger from the pandemic, effective and efficient communication plays a vital role. It increases the operational resilience of a firm and ensures quick decision-making. A good communication rapport builds effective relationships both with the employees and the customers. With the pandemic in place, there are new challenges and risks at every step of the business. It has had an enormous impact on the means and mode of communication. The biggest gainers of this pandemic have been technology and innovative means of communication and marketing, and the biggest question faced is how does one amalgamate both of them together to build up a resilient business in these desperate times?

It is indeed true that different companies have different strategies, but COVID-19 has changed the way corporations look at communications in their organization. There are three pillars of effective communication within an organization: Speed, Transparency, and meeting people where they are. The digital era has already changed the way the third pillar works. It is important to focus on getting the information delivered to people where they are, instead of them having to hunt for it. Internal communication implies the way in which companies interact with their employees and external implies the way it interacts with its target audience. Both internal and external communication constitutes an important part of the third pillar.

Source: The Software Report

The Case of Walmart:

Walmart is regarded as the world’s largest retailer. Today, it is not just a company but an economic force. With current operations across 28 countries and employing around 2.3 million associates worldwide. (BrightSpot, 2020). The power of storytelling and effective communication is what has made Walmart a more engaging brand. In a covid-19 environment, people are supposedly looking towards corporations to be truthful and transparent. Walmart is a retail store that was expected to be at the center of things, providing the necessary goods. The responsibility had definitely increased for Walmart. Protection and safety of not only the customers who visited the store but also of the employees working there had to be taken care of.

The level of corporate communication had to be precise and clear to the audience during these times. The three levels of the audience at Walmart are the executives, the associates, and their core customers. Communication for all three has to be congruent in nature and answering the pandemic needs. There are chances of having a communication gap in remote working, to avoid this from happening, Walmart built an ecosystem where the two levels of audience, the executives and the associates were in daily contact. They made sure that the message reaching their customers was not ambiguous and was assuring to them as well. Out of all the three pillars talked about earlier, Walmart specifically warned its employees, associates, to not get caught up in the speed because it can lead to more mistakes in the transfer of information.

It is better not to be the first one but to be the right one when it comes to communication during times like these.

A typical Walmart work environment was filled with discussions, direct mails, stand-ups, and daily conversations ranging from a wide variety of topics. Now that all of it had shifted virtually, the employees felt more connected with their executives in a remote work environment. Their current virtual room is filled with a diversity of thought, more people and has now become more transparent. This also ensures a speedy way to effective communication internally.

In order to ensure awareness and safety about the virus, Walmart has created interactive videos, podcasts that showcase the work done by them across their stores. This is done to assure their customers that Walmart is a safe buyer zone. Transparency in their communication channels was safeguarded through the company’s fast and speedy network. Be it their corporate website, social media channels, or even their associates who passed it on. Listening to what the people have to say is also an important part of communication. Making sure that we understand the difference between a pause and a halt.

The company created a COVID-19 resource hub internally for its employees and associates that focussed on benefits, physical and mental well-being, what the company was doing for them, and their employment policies as well. Making sure that the information was at their fingertips, easily accessible for them as well as for their families. Understanding what their employees and associates are demanding and then adhering to those needs. Walmart’s strategy has been quite clear and focused on the purpose of them utilizing social media channels and the internet. This does not mean carbon-copying things across all the channels. For example; a message on LinkedIn is different from a message on Instagram. The way of communicating a message has to change according to the medium you are using.

Executive or enterprise-wide communication means how much engagement does the company gets on one single message or mail put up. It is very difficult to measure it but if ricocheted correctly it can do wonders. For example; a direct message of assurance and trust from the CEO of the company to its employees and associates makes a huge difference. Walmart has extensively used digital communication and realized its importance to connect and bring in organic traffic to its corporate website, social media handles, and its offline stores.

Covid has forced companies to think differently and jump into arenas never explored before. The biggest change that will stick around is the ability to be able to react to situations quickly. The strategy that Walmart plans to take forward into the future is, taking care of the people who create stories for them and bring in customers. There was quite some time during the pandemic which made them turn a blind eye towards a work-life balance but it plans on maintaining that in the near future. It believes that the key to a successful business is the happiness of the people working there.

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