Last week I attended RE:Women's webinar about Communications in Times of Crisis. The conversation looked at both internal and external communication and the importance of getting it right in these extraordinary and challenging times. 

Drew McNeill of the BPF spoke about opportunities for the property industry to use effective communication to improve its reputation and to be seen as a force for good. This led to the sharing of some really positive initiatives that our industry has been involved in. Nick Hughes of SEGRO gave examples of SEGRO's commitment to the communities surrounding their industrial units; offering space for food banks and pop up hospitals. Also mentioned were those in our industry providing properties located close to hospitals to NHS staff rent free, or giving laptops to school children to enable them to continue their studies. It was refreshing to hear about some of these initiatives and as the panelists discussed, it is clear the industry is making great strides in terms of the "S" (social) element of ESG. 

There was also discussion around internal communications and increased empathy with team members. The panel referred to the inevitable humanisation of  those who work in our businesses and the wider property industry. With increased use of video conferencing offering us all insights into colleagues' and clients' home lives; whether through a stray ironing board in the background, or kids calling out in the background. Awareness of, and open discussions about, mental health and general well being, as well as the impact of working alongside people of different generations were also seen as positive outcomes to the current situation. 

Overall, the message from the panel was that this is a time when reputations can be cemented or damaged, by the ways in which we communicate and the messages we send. Speakers felt that businesses should try to take a long term view and to help their customers and their teams as much as possible. Whilst financial concerns are very real, the panel felt that now isn't the time to prioritise money, and that businesses would be better to invest in their reputations rather than their balance sheets. 

To quote one of the speakers, "We can't control what happens, but we can control our response to it".  I could not agree more.