COVID-19 completely changed the way we work as outbreaks impacted organizations worldwide this year. As companies were quickly adjusting to a remote workforce, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Teams will be available during the COVID-19 outbreak. In this article, we will talk through how you can use Microsoft Teams to help your organization execute your COVID-19 communications strategy.
Microsoft Teams as Part of your Organizational COVID-19 Communication Strategy
There are a lot of questions on how best to leverage Microsoft Teams during this time, so in this article, we will talk through how you can use Teams to help your organization with COVID-19 in three common scenarios:
- Communications Strategy: How can you leverage Microsoft Teams to communicate to your organization about COVID-19 include news, policies and provide ways for two-way engagement with office and remote workers.
- Response Planning: Planning a response to COVID-19 will most likely involve many parts of an organization to make quick decisions and collaborate together. Microsoft Teams can be used to bring people together, assign tasks, collaborate on content, and then communicate this out to the rest of the organization.
- Support Remote Workers: Many organizations (Microsoft and Amazon) are encouraging their workers to work from home for the foreseeable future to limit the amount of face to face exposure and the risk of passing on the infection. Luckily Microsoft Teams has many features to help organizations to work from anywhere
Microsoft Teams as a Communications Platform
Even though many organizations use Microsoft Teams as a collaboration tool it can also be used as a great internal communication tool. Microsoft is a relatively new tool so some organizations are having trouble understanding the balance between using their Intranet and Microsoft Teams for their internal communications strategy. There is definitely a place for both.
Here are some common requests from an internal communications strategy perspective:
- The ability to target and push information to all users so that we can communicate information about COVID-19 rapidly
- The ability for some two-way dialogue between the organization and its employees. Email isn’t going to cut it and it has to be much more agile and engaging for us to be successful
- The ability to provide information to workers regardless of their location or device, particularly if we are enacting a work from home policy which seems to be something that many organizations are doing
- Information can change daily or even hourly so the platform must be simple to use from content authors, reviewers and end-users
So, how can you leverage Microsoft Teams to help with these elements of your COVID-19 communications strategy?
Creating an Organizational Wide Team For COVID-19 Communication Strategy
As a starting point, create a Team on Microsoft Teams that you can use for your COVID-19 communication strategy. Luckily, Microsoft Teams has the option to create an Organizational Wide Team that will add users from the whole organization to make things simpler.
Unfortunately, the maximum number of users in a single Team is 5000 people so if you need to communicate to more than 5000 people then you will have to use either SharePoint or Yammer. Yammer is probably the better option in this particular use case. We strongly advise against creating multiple organizational-wide Teams and copying information between them.
Here are a couple of notes on creating and naming your Team:
- Typically using capital letters for Team names isn’t best practice but in this case, you might want to have COVID-19 in capitals since it is an acronym.
- Include COVID-19 in the ‘Title’ to grab the attention of users.
- Everyone in the organization will be automatically added to this Team so creating a welcome message on the general channel is a good practice to help people understand why this is.
- Add an image for this Team to differentiate it. Adding something like an alert icon could help the Team stand out even more.
Creating Microsoft Teams Channels for COVID-19 Communication Strategy
Channels in Microsoft Teams are a great way to organize conversations and information into logical units. They also allow you to use channel moderation so that different channels can support various communication requirements. Here are some channel examples that would be a good starting point:
- General: This channel will automatically be created and you can use this for any type of important information. Keep in mind that everyone will get notified on this channel, so use it sparingly.
- Announcements: Channel that you can use for news and announcements driven by the SharePoint news feature. This will be a controlled channel that will only be available for certain users to create posts in, the Corporate Communication team for example, but we will allow any user to comment on.
- IT Updates: With most organizations having to move people to work remotely, it might be a good idea to have a separate channel for IT updates that help support this move. This can work really well as IT quickly rolls out services or features to help support this transition.
- Ask A Question: This is a great way to have anyone from the organization ask questions and get answers. This channel will be more open than the rest with anyone allowed to post a question and reply to it. It would be good to call this channel Q&A’s but unfortunately, channels cannot contain some special characters.
- COVID-19 Response Team: Making sure that users know who is on the team that is handling the response can be really beneficial. This channel is used to show who is part of the response team and any type of specific information that they might want to share.
Choose the following options when creating channels:
- Make sure that you add a description to each channel that reflects its purpose
- Set the privacy to Standard (we are not going to use any Private channels)
- Check the ‘Automatically show this channel in everyone’s channel list’ since you want to make sure that all users see all channels without any additional configuration
Using Channel Moderation to Configure Channels in Microsoft Teams
Channel moderation is a highly underused feature that will be useful in your COVID-19 communications Team. Since this is an organizational-wide team, the typical approach of creating channels and letting anyone post anything isn’t the best idea for a number of reasons:
- Allowing the entire organization to post anything anywhere could lead to some issues, particularly for users who are new to MS Teams
- You want to make sure that authoritative communications have a chance to be promoted and controlled
- With a large number of users that could be part of the Team, you want to ensure that content isn’t lost in the noise
- If people can post anywhere they can also @mention anywhere which triggers a notification. With a large number of users, this could result in a huge amount of notifications.
Basically, you need to control who can and cannot post in your channels and channel moderation is perfect for this.
Microsoft Teams General Channel
This channel has slightly different options than the others, but by default anyone can post messages and we don’t want this. So for now change this to ‘Only owners can post messages’ so that this general channel is a little more controlled.
Announcements, IT Updates and COVID-19 Response Team Channels in Microsoft Teams
The purpose of these channels is to share news and announcements relating to a specific topic area. In this case, not only you want to provide relevant teams the ability to create posts but also allow everyone to reply. To achieve this, use Channel Moderation and add the various groups to the moderator’s list that will allow them to post.
Now you have a group of channels that can be used to post messages and have users comment on these postings. Again, these channels have the same functionality as the general channel; however, the main difference is that it’s only the owners of the Team who can post in the general channel, while you could add additional users as moderators for these additional channels.
‘Ask A Question’ Microsoft Teams Channel
The purpose of this channel is slightly different from the others. You’d want people to ask questions and allow them to reply. Therefore, no moderation is needed and everyone can start posts. Having an ‘Ask A Question’ channel in Microsoft Teams is a great way to enable the two-way conversation of your COVID-19 communications strategy.
What other tools can support your COVID-19 communication strategy?
Below are some helpful examples of tools and free templates that can help you improve your COVID-19 communications strategy to better support your employees.
- SharePoint Site Example: This is a great example of how you can quickly build a SharePoint site to communicate with your users
- Power Platform: Microsoft has just released the Crisis Communication template for free. This is a fantastic tool that can help with reporting
- Yammer: Leverage Yammer if your organization is greater than 5000 people and use the Yammer Q&A feature to capture important questions or concerns
- Stream: Use Stream for video communications or live townhalls
- Microsoft Forms: Capture any information that you might need from people. Easy to create, easy to gather responses, and works across all devices.
- SharePoint News Connector: Setup News via SharePoint and automatically show them in a MS Teams channel in a simple and easy to configure way.
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