Effective communication plays a crucial part in any business, and in the midst of a crisis getting it right is more important than ever. The risk of appearing tone-deaf and losing customers overnight is one that no company wants to take but at the same time finding the right words can be tricky.
Here are 6 tips to help you communicate effectively and keep your business moving forward during a pandemic.
Stay visible, but don’t overdo it
Businesses that remain visible, even if they can’t operate under normal circumstances will ultimately come out stronger, so use this time to build a deeper connection with your audience.
No one has the perfect words to say because these messages are entirely unprecedented. The important thing is that your audience sees you acknowledge the reality and struggles of COVID-19 and is reassured that you are doing everything you can to continue your company’s mission.
At the same time, be careful not to overdo it and blast people with unnecessary communication.
Try to offer genuine value and think about what people most need to hear right now. How do you plan to look after your employees? Are you offering extra discounts or new services? Have you got any resources that your audience might find particularly helpful? Creating real value for people now is what will help you retain your customer base and come out better off in the long run.
Choose your channels wisely
Consider where your audience is currently and use appropriate channels to communicate with them. In light of restrictions, people are spending more time online - particularly on social, so now could be a good time to amp up your digital presence. Video is a great tool to break through the noise and grab people's attention.
You should also remember that while COVID is the first thing on most people’s mind, it’s the last thing they want to think about. People mostly scroll through social media to escape, so try to share content that makes their day better, even in a small way. Just be sure that it’s on brand and sensitive to what’s going on around you.
Take time to communicate directly with as many people as possible. Personalized messages will provide comfort in these uncertain times and your stakeholders will remember the extra effort you went to.
Ultimately, your goal is to keep your business in the green, but if a customer gets the sense that they are just another number, especially with so many people struggling, it will leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Choose your words carefully, and do not make light of the situation. Reading your message out loud can help you determine if you’ve hit the right tone.
People across the world will have drastically different experiences with COVID-19 and though the internet is filling up with funny self-isolation memes and parody quarantine songs, it is important that businesses err on the side of empathy. Picture the people who are struggling the most and consider how your words will impact them.
Timing is everything
Timing is just as important as tone, and a message that might ring clear one day could strike a sour note the next. As you consider your message, pay attention to what’s happening in your industry and your community. Read the news before pressing send and think twice about how and whether you should communicate anything at all on days with heavy death tolls or when you know your stakeholders are experiencing extra hardship.
Have plans in place for how to revise your current messaging if unforeseen circumstances arise.
Use this time to build up your brand
It may feel like your business is slowing down, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You can use any extra downtime to build up your brand, polish up your website, and revise your digital strategy.
This could also be a great time to build your media profile too. What thought-leadership do you have within your organization? What can you teach people? Editors are always looking for useful content and a published article could introduce your brand to tons of new customers.
Be of service
Every company is different but we all have something we can offer the people who keep our lights on. Many online companies are offering up free subscriptions, reduced prices and new ways to connect.
If your company is primarily tied to a physical location, consider how you can pivot your business. Even if you can’t fulfill the role your business typically does, think about what else you
can do to better serve your audience. Can you waive delivery fees? Move part of your services online? While this might be nerve-wracking, chances are this kind of move will only bring you more business.
If you’re not sure what you have to give, it never hurts to ask your audience what they would find the most helpful at this time. Whatever you offer, view this as an opportunity to build a better connection with your audience.
About the author
Madina Knight is the Director of Kindtype, a New Zealand-based communications agency that works exclusively with purpose-led businesses. Madina has spent the last decade working in media & communications, helping businesses & charities amplify their message. Find her work at https://www.kindtype.net/