As posted in the Gaston Gazette
For more than a month, COVID-19 has altered the business landscape. Our nation has experienced sweeping layoffs, furloughs and uncertainties. We’ve witnessed services shutter, struggle, amplify online outreach and contribute to the community. But one thing has not changed: the need to communicate consistently with your business’ audiences is critical.
Too often during tough times, communications – brand marketing, public relations and advertising – are on the chopping block. But this novel virus and its unknown future demand communications; it beckons conversations with customers, vendors and employees as well as strategic messaging across various channels to maintain trust, reliability and awareness.
Here are a few communication tips that your business can employ throughout this pandemic crisis:
- Be positive in all communications. It’s much too easy during this moment in time to focus on the negative, but positivity goes a long way. In your communication tactics, be as positive as possible – even when the information is disheartening and undesirable. Rather than putting the emphasis on layoffs, share that tidbit while noting your business’ plan to bring back employees as soon as possible. Instead of mentioning the decline in sales, exclaim pride for what you’ve been able to accomplish, such as a new website dedicated to e-commerce or discounts that you’re able to offer. Don’t simply state that a staff member has the virus; inform audiences while also sharing your proactive measures to protect others and lift up that individual while ill. Reshaping the negative circumstances into positive actions and hopeful things to come will prove positive for your business in the long run.
- Avoid the “F” word. No, not that “F” word; avoid “fear.” It’s undeniable that we all feel that exact emotion right now. But, as best you can, keep from sharing that destructive sentiment in your communications. People currently do not need a reminder of their internal fear, nor do they need to associate your business with amplifying their fear. Commiserate with friends and family but avoid doing so in your audience messaging.
- Communicate business changes in a timely manner. Your customers and clients want to feel informed. They trust you and expect timely updates about business changes. In order to maintain that brand confidence, your business needs to be as transparent as able. Proactively communicate details such as product delays, temporary closures, altered hours, limited menu offerings and online options. But also take initiative to share staffing shortages, fundraising efforts and charitable giving. Audiences want to know how you’re responding to COVID-19, how you’re keeping people safe, how you’re still providing services and how you’re contributing to the greater community – and they want to know all of that as it happens.
- Ask for help and offer help. Typically, businesses focus primarily on communications specific to the work conducted. Restaurants share daily specials. Manufacturers detail new projects. Venues note upcoming events. But COVID-19 demands a shift in the communications perspective; it demands a reciprocal relationship with the audience. Society is coming together to help each other as this virus continues week to week. Your business must do the same. Offer help in your niche, extend donations to other organizations, host online fundraisers and more. In Belmont, N.C., Muddy River Distillery switched gears swiftly from brewing rum to brewing much-needed hand sanitizer. Consider what assistance you can provide, if you are able. But also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Businesses everywhere are hurting. It’s okay to be vulnerable and request assistance from those audiences loyal to your brand who want to see you succeed.
- Seek professional crisis communications help. The world is facing a large-scale crisis with many unknowns. That can make tackling communications tactics a bit daunting. How do you maintain credibility in a crisis? How do you proactively share negative news with a positive angle? Where and with whom should you share this vital information? Would an advertisement, press release, a blog post, a social media message or another tool be most beneficial? Communications professionals frequently help clients during crises and COVID-19 is certainly a crisis. Said John Harrington, editor of PRWeek UK, “Comms professionals are among the most versatile in the services sector … The industry’s ability to deliver creative campaigns that produce effective results is stronger than ever.” So if your communications work falls flat, consider hiring a professional – a team adept at managing similar situations and strategizing the best messaging and maneuvers. It could be well worth the money.
COVID-19 is not a time to let your communications decline. It’s a time to showcase your business in a positive, trusting, credible light, and these suggestions can help you strategize properly for long-term awareness and success – and position you well for the pent-up demand that is on the horizon.