Communicating Through Crisis


Four minute read

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the stakes for communications strategies across all industries. Companies have found themselves in the unenviable position of having to keep their business going while people are getting sick and dying from this virus. But in order to maintain some sense of normalcy and economic stability, business operations must continue and communications must strike a balance between health and safety.

Soundbytes has surveyed how some of the most affected industries have handled their  communications during the  pandemic. In part one of this series, we take a look at how the banking, airline and legal sectors have adapted:


Throughout the pandemic, banks have taken on the responsibility of acting as intermediaries between the Federal government, small businesses across the nation, and individuals that are struggling financially due to the economic downturn. Large national banks and community banks alike have had to quickly pivot in order to help their communities and the broader economy stay afloat, and they’ve built their messaging effectively around this role.

Photo by @ApolloBank

First, banks had to assure the public that their functions weren’t going to completely halt during the pandemic. If people feared losing access to their finances, it would have set off a wave of withdrawals, and there would have been an even greater national crisis at hand. So banks were among the first institutions to role out rigorous health and safety measures designed to protect employees and customers in order to maintain business. Many also took steps to improve their technology and encouraged customers to use services that facilitate banking from a distance, from apps to mobile check deposit.

Second, banks have played a critical role in assisting businesses through the Small Business Administration’s Payment Protection Program (PPP), which provided loans to companies with the sole objectives of helping to sustain payrolls and cover short-term expenses. While there has been some criticism levied toward big banks which were slow to extend loans, there is broad consensus that the program did what it set out to do — especially at the hyper-local level, where community banks helped to stabilize their local economies.

The big takeaway is that banks are stepping up as part of the solution to get the economy back on track, which marks a dramatic reversal from the last recession, when many of these institutions were seen as being part of the problem.


America’s domestic airlines have been among the hardest-hit segments of our economy, with air travel down as much as a staggering 95 percent since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. While the viability of their model has been questioned – When will it be safe to fly again, and can airlines last that long? – domestic air carriers were among the first companies to adapt to the realities of the pandemic.

Once rigid cancellation and rescheduling policies have become more flexible. Cleaning protocols have been amped up, putting more passengers at-ease with the idea of getting on a plane. And airlines were early adopters of masks, require all passengers to wear facial coverings in-flight once science supported the precautionary measure.

Along the way, air carriers have been proactive in their communications to passengers and the public, sending a message that balances public safety with the reality that some consumers are simply not comfortable flying. For the most part, the communications strategy has been effective, reasonable and consistent.

The news that some airlines are going to resume selling flights at full-capacity, doing away with social distancing protocols, is a questionable step given the surge of cases nationally. Airlines should proceed with an understanding that they may need to reverse course if they see passenger counts begin to drop.

Law Firms

Since the pandemic disrupted everyday life roughly four months ago, law firms have kept consistent communication – through marketing, social media and public relations – with their audiences to send the message that the judicial system is moving forward, despite physical limitations. The legal industry has adapted to using digital platforms and video conferences for hearings and other legal proceedings, relaying the message to clients that cases are still happening.

Law firms are also equipping their clients and the community with credible information on COVID-19 related matters, ensuring clients are informed on issues pertaining to their businesses. Some firms have created specific client alerts and landing pages on their website dedicated to COVID-19 resources, while others are sharing this information with the public through social media.

Lastly, while the pandemic has introduced a new set of challenges, attorneys are working to protect their clients’ interests. Law firms have taken it upon themselves to provide counsel to businesses on how to deal with new legal challenges brought on by the pandemic, from businesses interruption insurance claims, to family law matters. All told, the health crisis is forcing law firms to get creative with the way they practice and communicate, and there’s a strong likelihood that those strategies will remain in place post pandemic.