As authorities consider giving the “all clear” for your business to reopen soon in some modified way, it’s time to plan how you’ll go beyond just opening your doors and re-engaging as a community leader. Invite your key stakeholders—your employees, vendors, customers, and community partners—back to the new normal that reaffirms and amplifies your role as a leader. With these six re-opening tactics for community engagement, you and your organization will come back stronger from the COVID-19 restrictions.
Importantly, these are actions that you should be planning for NOW so you’re ready for re-opening. If you wait, you’ll miss the opportunity to truly lead.
As COVID-19 restrictions ease, employ these six community engagement tactics to re-energize your leadership:
1. Recognize the work your team did to keep the organization afloat during the isolation phase. Reward them and welcome them back with respect, thoughtfulness, and authenticity. Make sure the most senior leaders of your organization are on the front lines communicating this message of “you belong.” Think of little things you can do to make your people feel valued:
- personalized, handwritten, “welcome back” notes
- allowing employees to set their own flexible work schedules
- providing a weekly “social but distant” lunch
2. Host a celebration for employees at each worksite. These events amplify that it’s safe to reconnect with colleagues (of course following official guidance). Keep in mind that for months now, they’ve been told that separation is safer. Reinforce the message that it’s time to re-meet people you have known remotely.
3. Host a reconnection celebration with vendors and suppliers to express your appreciation and commitment to continued collaboration. If you can’t do it in person, then send a food gift with a handwritten note.
4. Host a reconnection celebration with customers to say you’re back and they matter to you. Share your go-forward plans, framed within your key brand messages.
5. Celebrate with your local, extended communities. When allowed, host an open house, sponsor a block party or festival, coordinate a tree-planting, throw a barbecue, or create another event to demonstrate that people in your community.
6. Maintain continuous engagement with your stakeholders and communities so you are ready to face the inevitable next issue together. Complacency is the enemy of any relationship; that community feeling may not be there when you need it if you haven’t nurtured it consistently. The next crisis may not be a pandemic, but you WILL need the lessons you’ve learned and the connections you’ve strengthened will be needed again in your time as a leader.
Start planning your return to community leadership and community engagement.
How you time these actions will depend on unique qualities of your organization, such as its size and the location(s) where you operate. Start planning, and include your community in the planning. It will foster hope for the future and reinforce their connection to you and your organization as the uncertainty of these times persists.