Bust Through Silos, Even During COVID

Bust Through Silos, Even During COVID

August 6, 2020

About two years ago, I wrote about Silo Island. Collaboration between communications, operations and legal is crucial during a crisis. You have to bust through silos. It can’t just be perfunctory checking the box. It’s critical for these units to work together and for none of them to slow down crisis response. 

I recently spoke with two different senior strategic communicators about what they had wanted to accomplish in 2020. Before COVID, both intended to improve collaboration and develop a culture of aligned communications across departments. I think a lot of us wanted to accomplish something like that – increased collaboration around communications – this year. Then COVID upended all of our plans.

Instead of building collaboration, we’re just trying to figure out communication strategies that we didn’t plan for. Instead of busting through silos, we are merely adapting to the uncertainty of right now.

Post-pandemic Plans

COVID not only upended our plans, but it also changed our style of work. The two communicators I talked with were frustrated. They wanted to drive change and cultural alignment in their organization. But now their organizations are virtual, scattered and focused on their individual silos.

These communicators, and many others that we’re working with, got off their plan. Instead of executing a long-term vision, they’re trying to figure out how to solve for right now. 

I encouraged them to get back on plan. Rather than be frustrated, use the COVID season as an opportunity. It’s a great time to provide consistency – the great communication that you do day in and day out – and also to create innovation, to define ways of creating and nurturing collaboration. In short, it’s a great time to bust through silos.

For some organizations, COVID has actually brought them closer together. I’ve particularly seen this with our friends in higher ed. They’re using their separation from their silos as means of collaborating on a lot of issues with major implications. They may not be following “the plan,” but they’re achieving the result: a budding culture outside of silos.

Get Back on Plan

So for those of you that had great plans for 2020 – and even those who didn’t – I really encourage you to get back on plan. Use Zoom or whatever video venue you have as a means to communicate and bust through silos. We think our Reputation Management Council model is a great venue, and this, too, can be done on video. 

Remember, it’s not just your grand plans that were disrupted by COVID. The silos were disrupted, too. Culture change and collaboration are still worthy, critical goals for improving communications. Instilling new behaviors and patterns is easiest when the old ones aren’t functioning. So use this time to get those great plans back in place and bust through those silos.

Filed under: Crisis Leadership


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.