Effective Communication In A Time Of Crisis

Interview with: Maja Naumovska Saveska, Head of corporate and marketing communications at Halkbank AD Skopje

Published on: September 9, 2020

  1. How does your company respond to a crisis situation (what type of plan you have, what are the tools and resources you use etc.)?    

Halkbank as a company strives to work within people’s needs. Every aspect of our portfolio, media relations, strategies, and internal communication is based on a humane approach. One successful company must always be prepared for the inevitable crisis, which means a fast and carefully crafted response, teamwork, strong will, and a calm head. Since we are sincerely devoted to our team and the people who are our valued partners, collaborators, and clients, we tend to work in everyone’s favor.

The global pandemic that we are dealing with right now is probably the biggest crisis any society can endure. Having this in mind, we can say that since the very beginning we are responsive, reacting before and as the situation unfolds. We have the capacity and opportunity to act when it matters, following a precise plan in order to help the clients, partners, the economy, and our organization as a whole.

Our employees work hard to develop solutions that are significant in the time being, responding to any given situation with urgently adopted measures related to each concerned party.

2. What type of weaknesses/strengths you have identified during the last crisis situation? Would you please share with us how these issues were resolved?    

Let’s say that with the Covid 19 situation, we were all of a sudden placed in a really strange position for working and daily functioning. We had to organize ourselves to stay at home as much as possible, to work from home, to make prompt decisions without a lot of time for reviewing the possibilities or for benchmarking, to make only online correspondences, to be a lot more aware of our health and safety… Some of us had to work a lot more hours per day and at the same time, to deal with many other obligations and unplanned situations… We have all faced with uncertainty and questions regarding what would be a right or wrong decision from the ones we need to take.

One of the biggest weaknesses we can note for this period was the lack of habit in using e-communication platforms, e-business, and e-commerce tools (both by the companies and by their clients).  But as a company, we acted really fast in the process of adaptation to the new manners of internal and external communication and overall doing business.

Our greatest strength is the cohesion of our management in the way of thinking, decision-making, and acting. We were extremely united in the idea that we should all involve ourselves and take an action, even if it is characterized as a risky one, and show our bank’s staff and clientele that we are a stable, responsible, and human-oriented company.

So, in just a week or two from the first signs of the pandemic panic, Halkbank’s management took significant steps for the people that Halkbank works for and the people it works with.

Internally, our staff was assured that Halkbank is a great brand and it will stand for each of its employees in terms of health and financial safety. We also did a good and fast organization with WFH schedules and with preparing our branches for safe work and servicing of clients.

Externally, we were the first ones who prepared the offer for the clients for postponing financial obligations in a period of six months. And when it comes to a bank which works upon a lot of regulations, this action was really promptly implemented by our side. In times when the public wanted to hear such offers as soon as possible, we knew that we shouldn’t wait a lot.

At the same time, the entire plan for our product placements and communication changed immediately. We did an immediate switch to online products’ offerings, online campaigns, educating customers of the usage of our e-banking and e-commerce, better conditions and 0 fees for the merchants who use our POSs, no fees for ATMs withdrawals… We also made an image campaign for the Stay Home message to the nation. Furthermore, when it comes to CSR, we only added additional actions to the ones that we have already planned before. So, we did help our economy with advance payments of the taxes; we did support our SME clients who had to lock their businesses through financial and promotional actions; we did support the culture and sports organizations that couldn’t function in this period… But we also continued with the ECO actions which were planned to be done this year, the ones that will contribute to the environment where we live in. Among these, there was the renovation of the 19 bridges in City Park in Skopje, the HalkCorner in Leptokarija, the HalkEco Chronometer, the HalkEco bus stop, and the HalkVeloGreen.

As a closure to this approach of the bank’s action and communication, we did a real art placement on one big facade in Skopje that represents the messages that this brand stands for – People Matter & Support Matters.

 3. Why is important for companies to have an effective crisis communication strategy?

Communication with customers and the wider public during a crisis is one of the most important elements in a Brand’s communication strategy. Effective communication is an important tool internally, as well as externally with clients and media. In general, crisis communication is a part of the regular business plan, but in such exceptional circumstances, companies pay a lot of attention to creating a good one ad hoc.

How the brand reacts to such events, and how it will communicate with its stakeholders, is essential to how the public will perceive it and how will the events further develop for it.  

Halkbank was prompt to react to the needs of the nation. Being led by the stigma “People matter”, Halkbank even intensified its presence on the market, by both deeds and the necessary communication. People’s satisfaction, security, economic stability, and trust were strongly put at the forefront. And people that one brand exists for, appreciate it.

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