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Crisis communication with Norway’s bravest media leader

In a time when panic seems to be spreading faster than Covid-19 itself, we’re bringing you fundamental tips from one of Norway’s most powerful media strategists, Ole Jacob Sunde.

16.03.2020

In a time when panic seems to be spreading faster than Covid-19 itself, we’re bringing you fundamental tips from one of Norway’s most powerful media strategists, Ole Jacob Sunde.

Over the past 20 years, Sunde has steered his companies through several crises’, the biggest being the financial crisis when the stock markets took a big dip in 2008. Here he gives his top pieces of advice to business leaders and employees alike on how to best cope with these extraordinary times.

As an entrepreneur who founded Industrifinans Forvaltning ASA  (1983) and Formuesforvaltning AS (2000), Sunde now holds the chair position at Formuesforvaltning AS, Schibsted ASA and is member of boards at the Guardian. Mr. Sunde is also chair of Stiftelsen Tinius and is on the board of 5 other companies, including the savings app kron.no,  and he is the Chair of Equality Check.

Be transparent - you must tell both customers and employees what’s going on and how it affects your company.

Q: Are there any similarities to what is happening now compared to the previous crisis?

A: The Coronavirus is something that was not foreseen, but still, it has been known for quite a while that something might happen, as we are at the end of a long period of growth. There is some element of “grey rhino” happening here - something you can see from a long distance and it moves slowly, then starts to gather speed and run faster and faster. Then, before you can fully understand what’s happening, it hits. This is similar to the pattern we saw in the 90s leading up to the dotcom-crisis.

Most often when a crisis provokes a sharp and sudden fall in share prices, the values will rebound quickly when the cause of the crisis fades. I don’t think that the current crises will linger on for years. It’s primarily because the government is doing everything it can to avoid the crisis.


Q: How should leaders communicate most effectively with their teams?

A: I see 3 core messages:

Be transparent. you must tell both customers and employees what’s going on and how it affects your company.

Learn forward. Inform too frequently rather than too little.

Communicate specifics. What people are most concerned about is how is this going to affect me? Sometimes the communication is on a company level, which is important, but it must also be broken down so that people working in the HR department vs. distribution know how it will affect them - the relevance of the information for HR  would be different from distribution.

Q: What is your best trick to ensure an effective home office?

A: Discipline. Often when you work at home, there is the temptation to be distracted. Sit at a desk and have a proper setup. Be organized. Also, don’t forget the social aspect. When quarantined, you need to stay in touch with people. It’s important to stay social (digitally at least) and take breaks.


Q: What do you do to stay positive/ good-spirited?

A: Keep things in perspective. See this as it is; it is temporary. It will not last forever. If you ski down a hill and fall, of course, it will hurt and it can be difficult to get up again, but you know that you will be skiing again. It’s not something that will last forever. Seeing the holistic view is so important. That’s where staying in touch with others comes in. Share your frustrations with people and get through these tough times together.


Q: With all changes come opportunities. Where do you see opportunities in this situation?

A: It’s a great time to think about how to get out of the crisis and what your position will be afterward. There are always many opportunities. The market will turn and you’ll leave the crisis behind you. Now is a time to reposition your marketing and branding. If you take good care of your customers and let them know that you are there for them, they will be keen to listen to new ideas and services when you leave crisis mode.

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