Bob Dylan’s lyric “The times they are a-changing” is an apt description of our new normal as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. As officials constantly update guidelines and teams work remotely, this is a confusing and challenging time for businesses and organizations that rely on day-to-day communication and interaction to function.
Do you have a plan in place?
It is vital that we provide clear, factual and useful communication. If you are a business owner or leader, you must continue to communicate with your customers, employees, vendors, board members, investors and others. Do you have a plan in place? Are you making adjustments based on these new conditions?
The messaging you were using a month, or even a week ago simply may not work today. You may need to update your messaging daily or weekly. You may have to change how you do business. Flexibility and honesty are your best tools.
Here are 5 tips to effective communication during a crisis:
Listen to your employees. They are scared, anxious and worried about what will happen to their livelihoods. Prepare appropriate and clear messaging and respond in a calm manner. They will appreciate it. Set up daily briefings via Zoom or send out a daily email. Set up a regular schedule so your employees can hear from you firsthand how the company is operating. Allow them to ask questions and share their feelings. Remain factual and calm.
Don’t be tone deaf. Make sure the tone of your messaging is appropriate. This is not the time to push sales in every social media post. When talking about the coronavirus, stick to the facts and be serious. It’s okay to offer content that is cute (think animal photos or toilet paper memes) but don’t forget people are getting sick and dying while others are deeply concerned about their future.
Provide information regularly. Keep your stakeholders updated on any developments that affect your company’s operations. Make sure your employees are prepared for all eventualities. Let your customers know you’re still in business, and if your products and services may be delayed. Setting expectations and avoiding surprises as much as possible will get you through the long haul and set you up to recover after the pandemic passes.
Offer resources. A lot of misinformation is circulating right now. You can help your stakeholders by providing them with accurate and timely information that comes from credible sources. Provide links to organization websites (local health departments, the CDC, local news outlets, therapists) that will help them understand the virus, what’s happening in the community, how to manage stress and more.
Be creative. Maybe your company can provide help to the community. Do you have food you can donate? Take your business online. What about online workout classes? Cooking, sewing, crafting or music lessons? Therapy sessions? Comedy routines? This is a good time to spread the word about your business in a positive manner, especially if you offer something to help people get through the next weeks or months.
Your leadership skills will be tested daily. Will you rise to the occasion? Using messaging that informs and is helpful will put you ahead of your competitors. How can you best serve your customers during this time? Understanding how to reach them and what message resonates with them will be key. Make adjustments as needed. Be responsible.
Most importantly, be kind. We are all in this together and we will get through it.
“The messaging you were using a month, or even a week ago simply may not work today. You may need to update your messaging daily or weekly. You may have to change how you do business. Flexibility and honesty are your best tools.”