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Exec comms chief, on coronavirus: "We've done this before (but with worse tools)"

The Professional Speechwriters Association called for coronavirus comment from you, asking how you are responding to your leaders and communication colleagues who turn to you.

Laura Hunter, who handles executive and internal communications at Google Cloud, answered:

Probably the most surprising thing I've said to my team and our execs is that it's going to be OK—we've done this before (but with worse tools).

Post 9/11—when asking people to travel was seen as insensitive and yet we were all commanded to carry on for the greater good—we had a much harder time using technology to bring speaker and audience together. I remember trying to book satellite trucks as I was rewriting scripts to try and take a long-planned seminar virtual. People are much more used to the virtual conference room—and sending out a link to invitees is easy to do and both speakers and audiences have well developed norms and expectations.

The most important coaching is still to stay focused on the audience. How that happens is definitely different when you're facing an empty room and don't have the immediacy of facial expressions to tell you how it's going, but the principle remains.

That said—the great thing about the speechwriters I know is that we've all adapted to a multi-channel reality. Can't deliver it live? Op-Ed! Tiny in-person audience—let's edit it into a video for YouTube. That kind of flexibility about the where/how, while staying true to the speaker/audience is why I love working with speechwriters.

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