How to communicate during the coronavirus crisis

How to communicate during the coronavirus crisis

The Covid-19 crisis has stopped many businesses in their tracks. Just as things seemed to be getting back on an even kilter, with Brexit settled (for now) and a new Government with a strong working majority in place, the last thing we needed was another shock to the economy and a prolonged period of uncertainty. 

However, that's the new reality as the UK continues to adapt to the stringent measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus and protect the health and well being of the population, which is the absolute priority.

The Government has moved swiftly to introduce a package of measures to help businesses and their employees navigate through the situation as best they can. You'll find details of how you can access this support elsewhere in the Love Business Covid-19 Business Support Hub.

How's your business coping right now?

Many businesses have had to shut their doors and send their staff home to work, while others have gone into a panic about what the future may hold. At times like this, it's important that business owners not only keep a clear and calm head, but also remember that communicating with their customers is an absolute must. 

After all, however bad it may seem at present, the coronavirus pandemic will eventually pass and businesses will emerge at the other side. Some will be stronger for the experience. In order to ensure you're one of the businesses that gets through the current crisis unscathed, the way you communicate now will go a long way to determining your success. Here are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to developing your short-term Covid-19 comms strategy. 

Understand your audience

Defining your audience and understanding your key stakeholder groups is key. These are the people you need to reach out to, keep informed and keep engaged.

However, while knowing who you need to communicate with is one thing, understanding why is what's important here. 

When it comes to understanding your audience, it's all about understanding their expectations and the way they will perceive your communications in a time of crisis. It’s important here that any communications you create are timely, factual, credible and relevant – in other words, respond quickly and stick to the facts.

A couple of other things to bear in mind here, though, are honesty and empathy.

Don’t try to spin things or share misleading information. If there are things you can't say or information you can’t share, just be open about it.

Above all, make sure you come across as caring and understanding. People will forgive a business which makes mistakes or finds itself in situations beyond its control, provided you do something about them. They won’t forgive you for coming across as heartless or uncaring, though.

So, understand what your audiences are looking for in a crisis situation, then give it to them.  

Provide reassurance

The key objective of communicating in a crisis is to provide reassurance to those affected by it.

So, if you’re a retailer, it’s about reassuring your customers that you remain open for business and are doing all you can to help meet their needs. If you’re a manufacturer, it’s about letting people know what your plans are and how you are managing production. You’ll know what the issues are within your business – the aim of providing reassurance is to communicate this properly to your stakeholders, and to let them know you’re doing all you can to get through this.  

As an employer, it’s all about letting your people know what the current situation is, what you are doing to manage it and what might happen in the future. There’s a fine balance to strike here, because you may have some difficult decisions to make as things progress, so it’s just about being honest with your staff and reassuring them that you are doing all you can to work out the best solutions, and keeping them informed at every step of the way as the picture changes.  

Be consistent (and true to your values)

The current crisis is a fast-moving feast and with things changing so much daily, it can be hard to take, and maintain, a position. However, being consistent with your messaging and your values is key. So, state your objectives and intentions, then stick to them.

Things will no doubt crop up to try and blow you off course, but if your customers and your people know what you are trying to achieve, they will join you on the journey, whatever course it may take.

Acknowledge people’s fears

In a crisis, there’s no point whistling in the dark and pretending everything is fine. It’s important to acknowledge people’s fears and uncertainties, but follow this up with clear information about what you are doing as an organisation to address them.

Again, people understand the situation, so be proactive about showing them you understand their fears, uncertainties and doubts and in talking about how you are responding to them.

Be kind

Now, more than ever, is the time to be kind and supportive. As the old saying goes, ‘if you can’t say anything helpful, don’t say anything at all’.

Finger pointing, rushing to judge, spreading fake news or disinformation, and being quick to react negatively don’t help anybody and serve only to fan the flames. So, in a crisis, as in life, just try and empathise with what other people are going through and look at things from their perspective.

Try to be helpful and kind, it's what will get us through this, together.

 

Author of this COVID-19 Business Support Hub Article

Jon Smart News Editor, Love Business News

Jon Smart, Love Business News

JON LOVES BUSINESS - Jon has been a keen supporter of Love Business for many years, from his time at the Chamber to joining our team as News Editor. You can find out more about how Love Business News can help raise awareness of your brand on our profile page.

More About Love Business News

 

Jon Smart

An experienced business journalist with a love of telling stories, Jon is our News Editor here at Love Business News. 

He's a familiar face to many businesses across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire thanks to his time as Media and Communications Manager at East Midlands Chamber, where he headed up its busy press and PR operation, as well as being the founding Editor of its monthly members' magazine, Business Network.

A fully-qualified journalist with many years' newsroom experience, Jon's career has seen him work in financial services PR at the height of the Credit Crunch.

He's provided strategic media support to some of the biggest business campaigns in the East Midlands, including supporting the launch of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and the Midlands Engine initiative, and campaigns to widen the A453, electrify the Midland Main Line and bring HS2 to the region.

More recently, he worked for one of the region's biggest marketing agencies, providing PR and communications advice to a host of commercial clients, as well as producing creative content for a wide range of digital and offline campaigns. 

 

How to get in touch with Jon Smart

Email jon.smart@lovebusinessnews.co.uk 


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