Most organizations are struggling with effective management of both internal employee and external customer communications. Three things are clear: the impact of COVID is not going away anytime soon, businesses and not-for-profits were caught unprepared when COVID emerged, and what “work” looks like post-COVID will be quite different from our pre-COVID models.
Before COVID, only 7% of the workforce was remote. The best estimates for remote work post-COVID seem to indicate that up to 30% of the workforce will be based remotely on an ongoing basis. COVID may be fading in 2021, but a high percentage of remote workers will not be coming into the office regularly when we get past the immediate challenges COVID has forced us to address.
When you are in larger metro areas, it will be hard to imagine the commercial buildings as fully occupied as they were a year ago. Some physical office challenges will not be easy to solve. For example, offices with open floor plans will be less desirable than those with more defined physical spaces. Buildings with many floors and a high density of workers will still have issues with elevator capacity to move people up and down—especially if limited to four persons per elevator because of social distancing policies.
Communication challenges may feel new to us, but they have always been around. Think about how the gospel spread in the early decades of the Christian movement—without the communications technologies we have today. Our Bible Study group just finished a thorough study of the Book of Acts. The Apostle Luke’s second book chronicles the developments of “The Way,” as the new church was referred to in Acts. The Book of Acts focuses on spreading the gospel to both the Jewish people and the non-Jewish Gentiles.
What is really amazing—if you read Acts as a study in effective communications—is how quickly the message of The Way spread from Jerusalem through the Middle East and all the way to Rome in just a few years.
Here is an example from the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Many times, the gospel message reached towns that Paul was traveling to before he even got there. We tend to think that Paul was the first to share the gospel message when he arrived in a new town but that’s not the case. People in Rome had heard about The Way years before Paul made his journey there in person. In many cases, Paul’s role was to reinforce or even correct what people understood. Paul’s role, as an apostle who had been directly instructed by Jesus and guided by the Holy Spirit, was to bring the message of Jesus’ resurrection, confidence, instruction, and empowerment to other leaders.
What can we learn from the spread of the gospel that can help us with remote communications today?
- Stay true to your information source. Every meeting the disciples led started with historical references in the Old Testament. In fact, without this background the gospel message would not have had context or relevance.
- Repeat, repeat, and repeat again. We often make the mistake that just because we have shared the same message multiple times we believe that the listener gets it. Not true! Good speakers know that you should plan to repeat your message three or more times to give your audience time to absorb it.
- Gear your message to your audience. One of my favorite passages in the Bible was when the Apostle Paul met with the Greeks in the marketplace in Athens, pointed to a statue of an unknown god, and then said: Let’s talk about that one.
- Start with something familiar, which everyone can agree on, and build on that foundation.
- Get feedback on what people think they have heard, and correct it if necessary.
- Build your messages over time. Most people can’t absorb a long, detailed message in one sitting. The Apostle Paul spent months in some places because he wanted to make sure the believers grasped what they needed to. He also wanted to ensure that any unbelievers would have the opportunity to come to Christ.
- Combine remote communications with in-person experiences when you can. This should become increasingly easier as we get beyond COVID limitations.
There’s probably never been a time in history when it’s been more important to align your communications with your remote staff and your remote customers!
Paul stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: To An Unknown God. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”