Comms, Guidance, Identity, Strategy

Clear communication in a crisis.

If your business is forced to change or close temporarily through no fault of your own, the natural reaction is to retreat and regroup. That is, of course, perfectly normal. It’s also a thoroughly sensible tactic – as long as you maintain strong and clear communication with your clients throughout this process and beyond.

We’re well aware that we’re writing this several weeks since the beginning of the current global pandemic. But, let’s face it, for most of us, the prospect of a return to anything resembling ‘business as usual’ is a very remote one. So it’s safe to say Covid-19 and related issues will be featuring in our communications for some time to come – and don’t forget that the way you communicate with your customers and your staff during the crisis speaks volumes about your integrity and good intentions. So getting it right now will go a long way towards helping you thrive when ‘normal’ life finally recommences…

Just to be clear, we’re not being cynical here. We have all seen examples of businesses flagrantly hijacking the crisis as a vehicle for transparently self-interested messaging…

In our view there are no universal answers – but perhaps we can all avoid offending, irritating or boring people and make sure our communications mutually beneficial by putting ourselves in our audience’s shoes before figuratively opening our mouths.

Emphasising Empathy.

On the contrary, what we’re advocating is communicating with empathy – thinking about what’s important in these worrying times for your customers, suppliers and employees and factoring their concerns into what you choose to say (and how you say it) and what you decide is best left unsaid.

Of course we all made our announcements about closures, furloughs, reduced service, opening hours, social distancing and other precautionary measures back in March. But, as we rediscover each week, this is a fluid situation in which everyone is overwhelmed with information all day, every day. So now we’re all wondering is it even acceptable to continue with planned marketing communications? Will it seem callous to pop up on people’s screens with news of your new product launch? Should we just keep quiet until it’s all over? Or should we keep talking to ensure our customers don’t forget who we are and what we do?

In our view there are no universal answers – but perhaps we can all avoid offending, irritating or boring people and make sure our communications mutually beneficial by putting ourselves in our audience’s shoes before figuratively opening our mouths.

Of course, it’s never a bad idea to impart information about anything that affects your customers: delivery delays, updates on how you’re adapting policies and procedures or information on use of your products and services with regard to virus protection… In fact, it’s a good idea to review every new national and global policy and protocol change in the light of its impact on the people comprising your market.

Sadly, though, in times of crisis there’s as much misinformation as information. So some informative reassurance, well-informed insights and myth-busting facts won’t go amiss – and if they help your cause too, so much the better.

Recognise what’s happening and make it relevant.

It might seem like stating the obvious but it’s far more important than ever right now to check that the message you were using a few months ago is still the right one. Because in a short time life has changed immeasurably for almost everyone – so glib headlines about going out, restaurant dining, dating, air travel and so on and on now sound horribly hollow and insensitive. Unless those messages are reinvented to acknowledge the crisis and impart new and valuable information – ideally offering some hope too.

Good news can’t be bad.

One of the positives to come out of all this has been the sense of community; of people and companies putting aside competition and striving to use what resources they have for everyone’s benefit. Whether it’s an informal mutual support scheme for your employees or a major re-purposing of your people and operation, people need to know about it if they’re to benefit. And, when you share it, that generosity of spirit will be a valuable part of your new brand personality when, eventually, the crisis is behind us and your business is already attuned to the ‘new normal’.

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