Business Reporter

BUSINESSES in Zimbabwe have been encouraged to embrace holistic and collective crisis communication approaches in order to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

The call comes at a time when the country has recently recorded a spike in infections in workplaces. Several businesses have been forced to temporarily close operations after members of staff contracted the pandemic. 

Speaking during a virtual Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations (ZIPR) Masterclass meeting as parts of efforts to improve organisational communications in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic,  Elizabeth Karonga, who is the public relations and communications manager for the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) said organisations need to be more proactive in engaging the stakeholders on Covid-19 and how it was affecting their 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,” Karonga added. 

She stressed the need for employers to reassure workers that their dedication to duty was valued and that they would do as much as they could to ensure that they are safe while traveling to and from work and while they are going about their duties in their workplaces. 

Karonga said organisations should 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 by 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,” said Karonga.   

Various business organisations have indicated that their employees had tested positive to Covid-19. This is in spite of Government calls for entities 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 re-open 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 gained the spotlight as 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, the ZIPR has initiated a programme to capacitate business leaders and public relations practitioners to communicate effectively with their various stakeholders. 

“Our mandate as a body is keep finding improved and more effective ways of communicating in the workplace. We are here to capacitate the nation’s communicators.

“We recognise that communication plays a critical role in reducing the negative impact of the pandemic subsequently saving lives primarily in the workplace,” said ZIPR president Mr Godfrey Koti.

The Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations is a professional body for public relations practitioners in Zimbabwe. It was established in 1966 and is one of the oldest professional associations in Africa with the aim of promoting the development of public relations in Zimbabwe.