It’s difficult to avoid conversations about coronavirus right now. Whether you’re talking to clients, colleagues, friends or family, it’s the subject on everyone’s lips. However, in recent weeks, we’ve spoken to several businesses that are unsure about what to say to clients and colleagues. To help, we’ve pulled together a short guide to communicating in a crisis.
So, without further ado, let’s get started…
First up, we want to tackle client communications during a crisis.
Now, at some point in the past few weeks, you’re bound to have received emails from brands explaining the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses – some good, some bad.
If you want to get it right, here are some points to consider.
Every business is handling this situation in a different way.
Some are continuing to function with minimal disruption. Others are working remotely. Some businesses have to close. Others are having to work harder than usual.
Supermarkets, logistics companies and healthcare providers, for instance, are struggling to continue to deliver to their clients and customers.
Which is it for you? What do you need to tell your clients and customers as a result of the situation?
It’s okay to be honest about the challenges that your business currently faces.
Be sure to explain the current situation in a way that your clients will understand.
While it’s okay to mention the challenges you face, you should also make your solutions clear.
The old aphorism ‘don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions’ has never been more true.
Read more: How to Write
If your clients are going to be affected by what’s happening, be sure to explain how you’re going to resolve the issue – now or in the future. It gives them a clear understanding of what to expect in a time of uncertainty. These days, a little reassurance goes a long way.
And make sure they know who to contact if they have questions or queries. Communication is essential to allay fears. And to quote Bob Hoskins: ‘It’s good to talk’.
Knowing there’s someone at the end of the phone can help people to cope in these difficult times.
Striking the right tone for your communications can feel hard right now. You may feel that the gravity of the situation calls for a sombre, serious tone. But if that’s not what you’re known for, consider lightening up.
While you want to share the facts, you need to maintain your own tone of voice. And if that means injecting some light humour to make your audience smile, then that’s okay.
Hell, we’ve even seen a few emails that are downright slushy about how much certain brands care about their customers. But if that strikes the right tone with your audience, go for it.
Remember that quality is critical. If your message is riddled with mistakes, it may make you look like your team is rushing or panicking. It looks unprofessional and may damage your reputation. Don’t skimp on quality control, even in a crisis.
Even at this time, it’s okay to put a call to action in your communications. It might just be a little different to usual.
Maybe you could ask your customers to share selfies with a custom hashtag. Maybe you could ask them to Like your Facebook or LinkedIn pages to stay up-to-date with the latest company news. Or maybe you could ask your clients to stay at home?
Be sure to pick something that resonates with your audience and the challenges they face
It’s likely that you have recently been contacted by businesses you’ve had no interaction with for years. They want to explain their working practices to you. And you’re unlikely to care.
Rather than running the risk of having the receiver shake their head and delete the message, take time to segment your audiences. That way, your customers only receive messages that are relevant. If a customer hasn’t worked with you in the past year-18 months, consider removing them from your coronavirus mailing list.
You may choose to distribute different messages across different platforms.
For instance, you may ask your employees to send a personalised (but templated) email to their clients, so there’s a sense of continuity. If you have a large customer base to reach, a generic mailshot may be more suitable.
You could choose to share a slimmed-down version of the message on your social media channels too. Encourage your employees to share the message with their connections too, so any leads and prospects are in the loop.
And, remember, to pick up the phone. It never hurts to speak directly to your clients and explain the situation in person.
As with any campaign, give some thought to the frequency of your crisis communications.
You may want to send a single email explaining that you’re closed until further notice. Or you might want to say that your business is reassessing the situation every day. In that case, you may contact your clients daily, weekly or monthly.
Just don’t overdo it. If you’re bombarding clients, you run the risk of being an annoyance, especially when there are so many other Covid-19 messages flying around.
Consider what your clients need to hear and communicate accordingly.
Of course, you should be communicating with your teams now more than ever.
This period of uncertainty may be distressing for your staff. They may be unsure if they’re expected to be at their place of work. They may be unsure about how to work from home. What’s expected of them? How should they communicate? What’s best practice if they have children at home?
Here are a few suggestions to help allay their fears.
Some of our clients are allowing their employees to work flexibly, especially if they’re not customer-facing. This means they can work after their children are in bed – or at weekends if there is alternative childcare available.
Some businesses are having phone calls and emails rerouted to their employees’ phones and computers.
If you’re one of these businesses, ensure your expectations are clear. Explain how many hours your teams are supposed to work, how many calls to make and how they should explain the situation to clients and suppliers.
As with external communications, be sure to set some expectations around the frequency of messaging. In critical industries, where demand has increased – or where businesses are now working remotely – morning bulletins might be suitable. A daily or weekly update keeping the team in the loop has the power to help employees feel like part of a team.
Read more: Internal Comms & Intranets
And if you’re a manager, now is the time to step up and be a leader.
Let your teams know that you’re available to chat. Let them know that you’re striving to provide the support they need during this time. Share success stories, achievements and positive news to maintain morale. And encourage them to speak to each other, even if they’re not in the same location.
If one thing’s become clear during this period, it’s that there are more communications channels than ever before.
From emails and the intranet to Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype for Business, your employees could spend their days checking the various channels available.
To help minimise the sense of overwhelm, define which channels your business prefers to use, can monitor the most relevant.
Having said all of this, it would be remiss of us not to include a call to action, so here goes: if you want to discuss your communications at this time, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d be more than happy to chat through your ideas and options. Drop us a line.