Podcast: Communications through a crisis and beyond

These are unprecedented times. The world of communications will inevitably change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with a new normal being ushered in.

In this podcast we look at how industrial players are navigating their way through the coronavirus turbulence, what they should do in the aftermath, and how they should prepare for the inevitable next unexpected event.

EMG crisis communications guru Gerard van der Zanden and PR and marketing specialist Holly Bentley discuss the effective steps and strategies being employed through today’s unchartered waters, tomorrow’s economic uncertainty, and what we have learned.

Hosted by Chris Merrill, the four episodes in this series are brimming with actionable insights.


Episode 1: Communication through the crisis

The coronavirus situation has presented the most complex communication maze in recent history. The scope, length and ever evolving scale of the global pandemic, has meant that communicators have had to be on our toes at all times. All this while often being physically apart from colleagues and stakeholders through a period of isolation. Right now the essence of effective communications has been to provide facts, but also to be empathetic and recognize the genuine concerns that employees, customers and stakeholders raise. At the same time, it has been about employing the best digital tools to carry that message across virtually. In this first episode of the series, we assess how the industrial sector has performed through the current crisis and what the most effective communications strategies have been so far.

 episode #1


Episode 2: The aftermath

We are now starting to see some glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel of the current crisis. There is a certain level of optimism that this will pass and that some sort of normality will return in a few weeks’ time. Following an assessment of the initial impact, company leaders and their advisory teams are now starting to consider coronavirus communications on a go-forward basis, with an eye on recovery and a return to normal operations. But more likely than a new normal will be ushered in – and the history books may well be defining a pre- and post-Covid-19 world. So where do we go to from here? How do we as communicators pick up and move forward? In this episode, we take listeners through the strategic communication decisions that will need to be made for an ensuing long period of social and economic anxiety. 

 episode #2


Episode 3: Being prepared for black swan events

Forget to prepare and prepare to be forgotten. While the coronavirus disruption has been unprecedented in both scale and length, those who had a plan in place on how to stand up and tell their story have held their own. Even without the gift of extreme foresight, there are always unexpected event events taking place that require contingency measures. Think of the recent trade wars involving the US, the EU and China. Think of Brexit. It’s certainly possible to prepare for supply chain interruptions and great market uncertainty, both at a business level and from a communications standpoint. There are many insights to be gleaned from recent weeks, most notably how to best adopt the new communication tools that have become so ubiquitous. In this episode, we speak about how best to implement measures to prepare for the next unexpected event. 

 episode #3


Episode 4: Wrap-up of key learnings

Crisis communications is not an incidental strategy, it is something that needs to be maintained throughout the event itself and in preparation of future threats. Recent weeks have reiterated how central empathy and heart is to effective communications. An open, honest, calm approach that has blended facts with explanation, has helped to dispel rumors and speculation. They have also indicated the merits of a more tactical approach to communications that incorporates both speed and fluidity, rather than strategy alone. In the fourth and final episode of this series, we summarize what we have learned on this essential topic and discuss what communications may mean going forward to ensure corporate preparedness. We will outline the dos and don’ts and how can we apply these learnings going forward into a more long term communications strategy. 

 episode #4



Gerard van der Zanden

Gerard van der Zanden has over 30 years of communications and training experience and has a strong background in both government and the industry. On a corporate level he has worked at companies like Royal DSM, Office Depot, Rockwool and LyondellBasell. He is also an examiner at Fontys University in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. During his last assignment as Corporate Communications Manager at LyondellBasell, Gerard was responsible for all crisis communications in Europe, Asia and International. Gerard managed on site and online crises trainings.


Chris Merrill

Chris Merrill is an American Broadcast Journalist and radio talk show host. He’s been the featured host on radio stations in Kansas City, San Diego and Phoenix. Currently, Chris is a free-lance host for radio stations across America and working with companies to develop and distribute podcasts that advance positive messaging for the organizations.



Holly Bentley

Holly Bentley is an American Emmy Award-winning journalist with more than 10 years of hosting experience. She currently works as a publicist in Phoenix, AZ for several businesses across a variety of industries including entertainment, technology, health, psychology, real estate and digital marketing.



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